Rohit Sharma has found backing as an opener from VVS Laxman as India gears up for the Test series against South Africa. (Image credit: Twitter)
Rohit Sharma's selection in the India Cricket Team for the three Tests against South Africa has opened up a debate among fans. The Mumbai right-hander averages under 40 in Tests and has not managed to cement his place in the side despite playing international cricket for 12 years. In the game against Board President's XI in Vizianagaram, Rohit, who also captained the side fell for a two-ball duck to Vernon Philander. However, former India player VVS Laxman has backed Rohit and has urged him to not make too many changes to his playing style.
"If you tweak your natural game too much, then you will not get the results as your mind gets cluttered and you tend to lose your rhythm. I can admit that my flow was affected when I opened. Rohit is a rhythm-based player and if his touch gets affected, then it will be difficult. I believe the mistake that I made while opening the innings was to change my mindset, which got me a lot of success as a middle-order batsman, whether it's batting No 3 or No 4," Laxman said in an interaction with former India opener Deep Dasgupta on his Youtube channel.
Laxman added that Rohit has plenty of international experience as an opener and this is one factor which he did not have. Laxman opened the batting after just four Tests and he scored 706 runs in 24 innings at an average of under 30. However, it was in opening that Laxman registered his first big score when he smashed 167 against Australia in Sydney in 2000.
"The biggest advantage that Rohit has is his experience, which I didn't have. I opened in Test cricket only after playing four Test matches. Rohit has played 12 years of international cricket. So he has the maturity and the experience and he is also in good form. I also tried to change my technique. As a middle-order batsman, I was always having a front press (front-foot trigger) and then go towards the ball, whereas talking to seniors and coaches, I went to back and across as I had to face Curtly Ambrose (97-away series), who would generate steep bounce from length. This huge change in approach affected my batting and I hope Rohit shouldn't do it," Laxman said.
However, the right-hander, who played 134 Tests and scored 8781 runs at an average of 45.97, was quick to state that discipline in cricket does not change according to format, be it white ball or red ball cricket.
"There is a slight change in mindset but technique should remain the same. Yes, there are certain basics like initially, you shouldn't be fishing for balls outside the off-stump, not play too much away from the body, leave the bouncers. That mental discipline, which is very important. That discipline is also required is ODI also when white kookaburra swings," Laxman added.
Laxman also pointed out that Rohit will have an advantage opening the batting in India as the wickets are good to bat on with the new ball and that the South Africa attack is thin on experience barring Kagiso Rabada.
"Another thing that would work in his favour is opening for the first time in Indian conditions. So it is a good thing to open, when the wicket is fresh and evenly-paced and playing well. With passage of time, batting can become difficult on uneven, abrasive surfaces, It could become difficult to play reverse swing, or when the ball is spinning. The SA attack is thin on experience on these tracks and for me, only Rabada is a wicket-taking option. The bowling lacks penetration and if he can get set, he can score a double hundred also. He will have more chance of big scores than batting No 6," Laxman said.