NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Once touted as the ‘next big thing’, Rohit Sharma’s test outings have been curtailed by injury, inconsistency and India’s quality lineup, so now that he has another chance to fulfil his potential he has no intention of taking his foot off the pedal.
With an ageing Sachin Tendulkar beginning to fade in India’s cricketing firmament, fellow Mumbaikar Rohit hit two centuries in his first two tests in 2013 to send expectations soaring.
But the middle order aspirant then faltered and his chances at test level over the next five years dwindled, even as his white-ball reputation soared.
Rohit was handed the opportunity to revive his test career in last month’s home series against South Africa and the 32-year-old grabbed it with both hands.
Playing his first test series as an opener, Rohit smashed three 100-plus knocks, including a double hundred, in four innings to finish as the leading scorer by a mile.
“It was a great series but as long as I’m playing, there will be no time for me to relax,” he told Reuters in an interview.
“I don’t want to look back now. I just want to focus on doing well every time I go and play test cricket and focus on what are the good things that I did in this series and take that forward.”
Rohit’s red-ball struggles have been in stark contrast to his white-ball prowess.
The right-hander is the only batsman with three 200-plus scores in one-dayers and smashed a record five centuries at this year’s World Cup even though India fell at the semi-final stage.
“Red ball does a lot more than the white ball,” explained the gifted shot-maker, who was named brand ambassador for Trusox, a sports apparel brand making a foray into the Indian market.
“So you have to keep telling yourself that you have to focus more, and be more disciplined in shot-making.
“In one day cricket, once you get past that powerplay overs the field is spread. You can just take singles and rotate strike and then odd boundaries here and there will come.
“But test cricket is not like that. There are a lot of catching positions, so you have to be very disciplined.”
Rohit’s 27 ODI centuries include 10 ‘Daddy hundreds’ of 140 or more.
“I totally believe that when you get to a hundred, you’ve done such hard work to get there, so why let it go? Get another 50 or another hundred.
“When you are batting on a hundred, the opposition knows you are a set batsman. They are on the back foot, thinking, ‘Okay, we need to be safe with this guy, and try and attack the other guy’.
“That is where you can cash in. Once you’re set, there’s no way the bowler can get you out, unless it’s a peach of a delivery.”
Winning Man of the Series against South Africa was special but Rohit knows he must score away from home to erase any lingering doubts about his test credentials.
“Hundred percent, we all know that. But for me, cricket is cricket, whether it’s in India or outside,” he said.
“If you don’t perform in India, how can you perform outside? Home or away, it doesn’t really matter. Performance is what matters to me.”
Rohit will confront a new challenge in a two-match series against Bangladesh which includes a day-night test in Kolkata from Nov. 22.
“I’ve played only one pink-ball game in the Duleep Trophy … We need a lot of more experience with that ball, but it’s a great time for us to play a day-night test.”