Abhishek Nayar believes growing up playing local cricket on wickets with red soil enables Rohit Sharma to make batting look easy on spinning tracks.
Rohit Sharma was the highest run-scorer from either side in the last two India-England Tests. Both matches were played on raging turners which made life difficult for most batsmen.
But former Mumbai all-rounder Abhishek Nayar feels Rohit Sharma's experience of playing on turning tracks throughout his childhood holds him in good stead.
“Any cricketer in Mumbai has to counter tough conditions while batting in local cricket. As a youngster, Rohit has played on wickets with red soil, on which the ball spins like a top, and in the Kanga league, where spinners become even more dangerous since both the wicket and the ball are wet, and the ball skids,” Abhishek Nayar told TOI.
Rohit Sharma's former Mumbai teammate further added in this regard:
“Like it happened in Ahmedabad, you don’t know if the ball would stop and come, come straight or turn. If you see his sweep shot, it’s a very natural, ‘Mumbaiya shot,’ since the sweep comes handy while playing in turning conditions. This is why most Mumbai batsmen, for example Shreyas Iyer, are very good players of spin bowling.”
Rohit Sharma lit up the second Test in Chennai with a scintillating knock of 161 off 238 balls in the first innings. The Indian opener then scored 66 and 25* in the pink-ball game, which eventually turned out to be the shortest Test since World War II.
Abhishek Nayar credited Rohit Sharma’s counter-attacking skills to the latter's ability to pick up the length of deliveries very quickly.
“His biggest strength is the amount of time he has to play the ball. He picks the length of the ball very early. He has now understood what his strengths are, and he can dominate a spinner...On a turner, Rohit won’t think about surviving. He thinks how he can dominate a bowler, so that the bowler is looking for survival instead,” Nayar explained.
Rohit Sharma averages a whopping 81.05 in home Tests, second only to Don Bradman’s record of 98.22. The Mumbaikar’s numbers are also the best among Indians with 1000 or more runs in the longest format.
“Rohit Sharma has a different mindset now” - Abhishek Nayar
Rohit Sharma burst onto the Test arena with twin hundreds – 177 and 111* - against the West Indies in 2013. But he couldn’t quite cement his place in the Indian Test side, owing to his lack of consistency.
Nayar, however, feels Rohit Sharma has matured as an individual and has a different approach to both batting and life now.
“He has a different mindset now. He knows how to tactically approach his innings, which bowler he has to target. If you see his interviews in his younger days, he would say something unwarranted, would get upset, but now he’s so calm. He’s a different guy in a different stage of life now,” Nayar concluded.
India need to avoid defeat in the fourth and final Test to seal their spot in the World Test Championship final. Rohit Sharma is once again expected to play a key role for the hosts.