Rohit Sharma is ready to put behind him the Test series in which he was preferred to Ajinkya Rahane for the first two Tests and then dropped. Rahane made a crucial contribution in the Test that India won. Rohit is a genius ODI batsman, and that confidence just shows vis-a-vis when he is playing Tests and still looking to establish himself. In ODIs, he has proved himself almost all over the world and in big tournaments, and South Africa is a blip he will be keen to correct.
Going into this six-ODI series he won’t have the same trepidation he might have had going into the Tests. Just like Quinton de Kock for South Africa, he will be looking forward to this change in format.
What is different in Tests then? Two days before the start of the ODI series, Rohit, India’s limited-overs vice-captain, might have unwittingly given away a little bit of a peak into his mind when playing different formats. He was asked if the changes for the ODIs will be more technical or mental, and he ended up putting Test batting in perspective.
“You need to tell yourself that the shots you played in Tests and shots you play in ODIs are different,” Rohit said. “I am talking about myself. Every individual has their own plan, but when you play Test cricket it is important to analyse the situation, where the game stands at that point, and one bad shot can change the course of the game.”
Rohit has had that experience in Tests, which possibly makes him bat unnaturally. In Southampton in 2014, with India leading the series, Rohit holed out off Moeen Ali just before a break, and India went down after that, both in the Test and the series.
Now comes the contrast in limited-overs cricket. “In ODIs you think two steps ahead and want to put pressure back on the bowlers,” Rohit continued. “And change it around. There are a lot of Test cricketers who think in the same fashion in ODI [and Test] cricket. For me, it is different and nothing changes other than mentally. Technical aspect remains the same. Yes, the shot selection and certain technical aspect of your game changes but mentally you have to keep telling yourself that you have to read the situation and try and analyse where the game is going and where you want the game to be going after the day’s play.”
Rohit is not a natural opener but he can tell you how to build an ODI innings even if you wake him up in the middle of the night and give him a situation. It is rightly feared that Rohit can come close to scoring an individual triple-hundred in ODIs. Rohit, though, doesn’t want to take it for granted, especially in the light of walking from a format he struggled to one that comes naturally to him.
“See, nothing is comfortable in cricket, in sport rather,” Rohit said. “There will always be times when things are not going your way, and then when things are going your way. It is important for you to keep things going. I’m not going to talk about Test cricket so much because it’s over now, and we have a big job at hand winning the ODI series here.
“I think every batsman who will be taking part in this ODI series will have a huge role to play. I’m here to make an impact in the series, I want to try and do that. Both are different formats. It’s not that I don’t try so much in Test cricket and try a lot in ODI cricket. I give the same effort in all the formats that I play, but sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean that you have to change things too much. You’ve got to believe in yourself, you’ve come so far and played and got success. So you have to believe in your ability and know how to take things forward. I’ve been in a difficult situation before many times, so for me it’s all about taking it one game at a time and responding to situations.”
Rohit wants to put his good form in ODIs to good use in the upcoming series. “I’m enjoying batting quite a bit,” Rohit said. “Of course, the last six-seven months have been really great. Since the Champions Trophy in England, we’ve had a great run except for the loss against Pakistan [in the final]. That was a little disappointing. But yes, since then it’s been a good run and I hope I can continue and put the team in a good situation. We want to get those victories away from home. It’s always important what you do outside India.”
There will be a personal record to set straight too. Rohit does have good memories of South Africa. He played a big part in winning the World T20 final in 2007 here, he won his first IPL here, but his last two international trips have not been memorable. In Tests, he has had eight innings for just 123 runs in the country. He averages only 12.28 in South Africa after seven ODI innings. He was part of the side that was streamrolled in the ODIs on the last trip. He will set about this job with the knowledge he has done it before elsewhere.