October 6, 2019 / 10:55 AM / 11 days ago

Cricket-Rohit makes strong start to second innings in new avatar

MUMBAI, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Rohit Sharma headed into the opening match against South Africa determined to resurrect his floundering test career and the 32-year-old emerged from it having staked his claim as India’s automatic choice for the opening slot in all three formats.

The right-handed batsman could not have dreamt of a better start to his journey to reinvent himself as a test opener as he struck hundreds in both innings of the opening match against South Africa.

He was adjudged man of the match on Sunday for his efforts which included a quickfire 127 in the second innings that helped India set a target beyond South Africa’s reach while also giving their bowlers enough time to take 10 wickets.

It went perfectly according to the script for India as fast bowler Mohammed Shami picked up a five-wicket haul while spinner Ravindra Jadeja took four to bowl India to a comprehensive 203-run victory in the second session on the final day.

“I wanted to just go out there and do what I do the best,” Rohit said at the presentation ceremony. “It was a great opportunity for me at the top of the order, doing it for the first time, so I just wanted to enjoy the moment.

“At the same time really thankful to the coach, captain and the selector for giving me the opportunity, considering me for the slot, I had never done that before.”

Rohit has cemented his place at the top of the batting order in the Twenty20 and 50-over formats. The only player in the world with three double hundreds in one-day internationals, the right-hander used to bat in the middle order in the longest format but struggled in test cricket.

He was dropped following a poor return in South Africa in early 2018 when he scored 78 runs in four innings. He played two tests in Australia at the end of the year, missing one with injury and the other due to the birth of his child.

He finished with most runs in the World Cup in England recently but with Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari putting in solid performances in the middle order in two tests against the West Indies, he had to sit out.

That prompted calls from pundits to try him at the top of the order in the longest format and the selectors obliged by axing struggling opener KL Rahul.

The Mumbai player said he was informed by the team management couple of years ago that he might have to open in tests at some point.

“In my mind I was ready to have the opportunity anytime. I was not surprised,” said Rohit, who also set the record for most sixes in a test during the match with 13 hits over the boundary.

“I wouldn’t say it came to me as a surprise, I was ready for it.” (Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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