: Apart from giving India a decisive command in this match, Sunday’s game may have addressed two major concerns --- Rohit Sharma’s position in the team and the third opener’s slot. Like in St Lucia and Kanpur, Rohit may have again exploited the cushion of a first innings lead to score heavily in the second, but at least he has shown consistency.
Shikhar Dhawan has not utilised the fairly long rope extended to him in the belief that he has the ability to turn any match on its head. He hasn’t done it at home since the century on debut in Mohali three years and even though this wasn’t the most Indian pitch in terms of being passive, he did nothing substantial in the second innings to help his case. His failure should give a leg-up to Gautam Gambhir’s chances of playing the Indore Test, but for the long haul, somebody like Manish Pandey could be given the opportunity.
Rohit should breathe easier now after yet another good innings at a venue where he has rarely returned empty-handed. He came in when India were 43/4 and not quite out of jail in terms of setting New Zealand a more than competitive target. What worked in his favour was the presence of Virat Kohli, who looked intent on not getting bogged down by the Kiwis’ plan of bowling short to him.
“As a non-striker I was hoping that he gets through that period. At times there will be a spell which you have to play. There will be times when the going will get tough. This is Test cricket. Nothing will be easy, so we knew that and were prepared for it. Virat, being an aggressive player, played some wonderful shots which were good to see from the non-striker’s end,” said Rohit at the close of the third day’s play.
Unlike in the first innings, Kohli was more cautious with his cover drives, preferring to play closer to his body and cutting down the risk. But Rohit had his way of dealing with a tricky pitch. With his priorities clear, he got down to one of the tougher assignments at a ground he knows better than most. Neil Wagner used the angle into Rohit from wide while Trent Boult and Matt Henry kept pitching between short and length deliveries.
For a period, Rohit was content defending. “It’s a situation where you can’t go too forward nor sit back. The ball that hit Shikhar pitched right in front and kicked off from there. You have to make sure you are balanced and play as late as possible. Even in the nets, I batted as late as possible. Every batsman will have certain plans. Some may not be comfortable playing on the front and some may not be comfortable playing on the back foot. It’s about getting adjusted to that particular condition,” he said.
Adjustment done, Rohit hit a six off Boult before milking Mitchell Santner and Jeetan Patel for runs that stretched India’s lead.