'Always felt he had the X factor' – Shastri backs Rohit to excel as Test opener

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www.icc-cricket.com|27-Sep-2019 13:20

India coach Ravi Shastri has reassured Rohit Sharma that the team management would give him enough time to settle as an opener in Tests, and is confident he will emerge as a match-winner in the longest format.

Rohit has been one of the most consistent batsman in white-ball cricket for the last few years, and currently occupies the second and ninth position in the MRF Tyres ICC Batting Rankings for ODIs and T20Is respectively. However, he has been an irregular presence in India's Test set-up for quite some time, having failed to deliver on a consistent basis after he had registered back-to-back hundreds in his first two Test innings back in 2013.

Shastri, however, is confident the Mumbai batsman can still have a great impact in the format. "It is all combined. But I told Rohit, way back in 2015-16, to start opening for Mumbai," Shastri told Hindustan Times. "Always felt he had the X factor. It is always difficult, not easy for a No.5 or 6 to do it. But it is just a mind thing. If he gets over it, he is going to be a match-winner there as well, and we are going to give him time. We are not going to push him."

Rohit's career as an ODI batsman catapulted after he was promoted to open the innings in the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 alongside Shikhar Dhawan. Since then, he has amassed 6,621 runs from 128 innings at an average of 59.11. He has registered seven scores in excess of 150 in ODIs, three of which have been double-hundreds and has also scored four T20I hundreds – the most by any batsman.

The debate prompted Shastri to think back to his own playing days as a Test batsman; he scored 1,101 runs at 44.04 as an opener, contrary to his overall career average of 35.79. "That is the main reason why I told him [Rohit] in 2015, because I was speaking from my experience," said Shastri. "There are a lot of players who should have opened for India, just to eliminate a batsman. Sometimes in the subcontinent, you just need five batsmen. That was my opportunity, that’s how I got to open the innings."

Five-star Rohit Sharma
India are set to take on South Africa in three ICC World Test Championship matches next month, starting with the first Test in Visakhapatanam on 2 October, and Shastri expressed hope for pitches that would suit the home side.

"This is India-centric, and for the first time, you have the World Test Championship," he said. "As far as I am concerned, in the last 40 years, that’s the biggest World Cup. It’s home, away. You play to your strength as India, so everyone who is doing their job as a groundsman, he should think India and do the job."

The 57-year-old also touched on how the Championship would affect workloads. "We got to plan, it’s home, away," he said. "We got to rest players, we got to see which guy is good for certain conditions, you got to be on the ball all the time, which guy is having niggles or needs treatment. It’s a tough process. We live life in the present. After the event, you get a lot of pens and mike, we love that."