India batsman Rohit Sharma believes how each side fares against the new ball will be crucial in determining the outcome of his side's ICC World Test Championship series against Australia.
Rohit is missing the ODI series between the sides to ensure a full recovery from a hamstring injury he picked up during the Indian Premier League, but is set to fly out to Australia for the red-ball leg of the tour. His availability for the Tests will be a boost for India, with captain Virat Kohli leaving the tour after the first Test in Adelaide and the visitors on the hunt for crucial World Test Championship points to help them secure a spot in next year's final.
💬 "To be honest, as a captain, obviously he’ll be missed but the Indian cricket side always finds some incredible batsman, just waiting for an opportunity."— ICC (@ICC) November 16, 2020
Pat Cummins believes Virat Kohli's absence in three #AUSvIND Tests will not be a deciding factor in the series 👇
While he has predominantly opened in his recent Test appearances, Rohit made clear that he would be happy to fill in wherever he was required in the order in the skipper's absence.
"I am sure the guys already in Australia must have figured out what are the options when Virat leaves and who are the guys who will open the innings," he told PTI. "Once I reach there, I will probably have a clearer idea of what's going to happen. I will be okay to bat wherever they want."
Looking ahead to the series, Rohit expects the main threat to come from the new ball, with the bounce that traditionally helped quick bowlers armed with an older ball in Australia less prominent than in the past, in his opinion.
"We talk about bounce, but except for Perth, over the past few years, the other grounds (Adelaide, MCG, SCG), I don't think have that much bounce. Nowadays, especially while opening the batting, I will have to think about not playing the cut or pull shots and focus on playing in the 'V' and as straight as possible.
"With the new ball, whoever bowls – whether it's Starc, Cummins or Hazlewood – they will obviously pitch it up, swing the ball and the bouncer will be used sparingly. They will try to ensure that they would get some movement in the air or off the pitch. With the new ball, everybody in the world loves to bowl full and send down one odd bouncer here and there. So the majority of deliveries will be pitched up and towards the bat and not short." He added: "In Australia, half the job is done if you can start well up front."
By the time the first Test begins next month, Rohit will have gone over a year since his last Test appearance, which came against Bangladesh. He missed India's tour to New Zealand, which saw the Kiwis sweep the Tests 2-0, due to injury, and is expecting a big challenge on his return to action.
"It's going to be challenging. In general, international cricket is never easy, whichever format it is. When you have had such a long lay-off, it becomes all the more difficult. So I will be focusing on the basics of red-ball cricket and then you can top that up with other things. That's how I would like to take it forward. You can't just jump the gun and think too far ahead."
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