A lethal bowling attack that executes its plans to near perfection makes New Zealand one of the toughest places to play cricket, says top India batsman Rohit Sharma but also asserts that he is ready for the challenge coming up next month.
After three hundreds, including a double against South Africa in his first Test series as an opener, Rohit will be facing an attack comprising Neil Wagner, Matt Henry, Trent Boult and Tim Southee in the two Test matches in Wellington and Christchurch in February.
“New Zealand is not the easiest place to play cricket. Last time, we lost the Test series (0-1) but we gave a good fight. But this bowling attack of ours is completely different from what we had back then,” Rohit told PTI in an interview.
“For me personally, it’s going to be a challenge without doubt, facing the new ball bowlers and the guys who bowl in the middle overs,” he said.
Rohit is aware that the ball might swing and seam much more outside India but the home series against South Africa last year was a welcome change in terms of what one expected of sub-continental tracks.
“Facing the new ball in any conditions is not that easy. Of course, it’s lot tougher outside India. But then, we played three Test matches against South Africa and I have never seen the ball swing so much in India like it did in Pune (second Test),” he recalled.
“The first few overs that they (SA) bowled, the pitch was damp and so they got pretty much everything out of it. In Ranchi (where he got a double hundred) also, we were three down in no time.
“But I know what to expect as I have been there the last time (2014 series). Not the easiest of conditions but I will be ready for that challenge,” he added.
Rohit has been keenly watching New Zealand’s recent series against Australia.
Even though New Zealand were soundly thrashed 0-3, Rohit loved the fact that their bowling unit is more consistent in executing plans compared to some of the other international attacks.
“…they come up with plans and stick to them. It’s one thing to make a plan without being able to execute it and another to make a plan and implement it to the T. That makes a lethal bowling combination.”
On to his own game and does he, at times, feel that he could have decided on opening in Tests much earlier, after Virender Sehwag’s retirement? Had that been the case he could have played 55 to 60 games in the longest format compared to the 32 (2141 runs and six hundreds) that he has played so far in six years.
“I know I could think that way…I know it happened late but must have happened for good. That’s what I am thinking now honestly. In fact, I am happy that whatever is going on in my career right now is in my favour.
“Whatever has happened in the past, I cannot change that. I am happy that at least an opportunity to open the batting came to me and I have enjoyed batting up the order.”
The fact that Rohit understands his batting much better than earlier is the reason why he was able to score 2442 runs across formats in 2019.
“I don’t know how to describe it but I am really happy what we could achieve as a team. If you know me, at no stage of my career has personal glory been important. The milestones (2442 runs in a year as opener) are fine but winning every series is what we focus on.
“If you are playing well, milestones will be reached along the way. I would take credit for the fact that I now understand my game very well than what it was previously. I stuck to my gameplan and that actually worked for me.”
But India’s six-year drought at the ICC events does bother Rohit, who is hopeful that things will change for the better as soon as the younger crop of cricketers play together for a considerable amount of time.
“Things are changing now. Shreyas (Iyer) is No.4 now and he is doing pretty well. Rishabh (Pant) did well in the West Indies ODIs. Shivam (Dube) has started doing well. So, I am confident, our youngsters will step up,” the 33-year-old said.
“The problem is that between KL (Rahul), Rishabh, Shreyas and Shivam, they haven’t played many matches together as a team. But that will happen now and once that happens, they will get some confidence.”
He is confident that Iyer will be playing more fearlessly now that he has somewhat made the No.4 position his own.
“Shreyas knows that he will now bat at No.4 for years to come. He feels secure and can now execute his plans freely. The other guys will first need to make the respective spots their own.
“KL has had a good time and will go in with a good mindset moving forward. We can’t really judge them as a group after two or three matches. We need to wait till they have played sufficient matches together.”
Rohit is 33, at the peak of his prowess but has he thought about what’s in store when he quits, perhaps six-seven years down the line?
“I don’t make such plans. Right now, there are a few World Cups to be won,” he said.