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Rohit Sharma can succeed as Test opener if his mindset is positive

Makarand Waingankar

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Rohit-Sharma
Rohit Sharma has got another chance to succeed as an opener in Tests. Photos: Twitter and Google.

Mumbai: Rohit Sharma being recalled to open for India against South Africa in the impending three-match Test series has opened up a debate regarding the justification of the decision.

VVS Laxman, a middle order bat, who was pushed up to open the innings has spoken of his troubles as a Test opener. He has spoken of his change in mentality and technique while trying to cope with its demands, failing in the process. Laxman has warned Rohit of committing the same mistakes.

Rohit is an enigma. When people have written him off, he is managed to shut them critics with runs, the only player to have scored three double-centuries in ODIs, and scoring five centuries in a single edition of the World Cup recently.

He is a strokeplayer, who is difficult to contain when he gets going. Batsmen tend to have different mindsets while batting at different positions. Not only mentally, opening an innings requires a different skill set than batting in the middle order. Openers are taught to see off the new ball.

VVS Laxman

VVS Laxman has advised Rohit Sharma not to commit the same mistakes he committed as opener.

Indian openers, of late, have been dismissed even before even the new ball loses its shine. The South African attack, led by Kagiso Rabada and supported by Vernon Philander, will surely test the Indian openers.

Opening, be it in the Indian subcontinent or overseas, requires a lot of courage as well as discipline. When Dilip Vengsarkar, then only 16, was sent up to open by Dadar Union skipper Vasu Paranjpe, he produced a stroke-filled knock against Padurang Salgaonkar, and one of India’s fastest then.

Vengsarkar would plant his front foot forward and play on the up, a pleasing sight for the spectators. He became an overnight sensation and only bolstered his reputation by hitting sixes against Bishan Singh Bedi and EAS Prasanna on a turning track in Nagpur’s VCA stadium.

But when Vengsarkar went to New Zealand, his penchant for playing “on the up” landed him in trouble, getting caught in the slip cordon. He had to change his technique while opening. The selectors then brought him to the middle order, where he scored consistently against Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz’s Pakistan.

Initially Rohit’s batting style was similar to Vengsarkar’s, who later curbed his strokeplay on turning tracks. His reticent shot making made him a master batsmen against spin bowling. Before 1979 during India’s tour of England, Vijay Manjrekar predicted Vengsarkar’s failure. But Dilip responded with a hundred at Lord’s.

Predictions can often go wrong. But it is safe to say that Rohit, when on song, is a joy to watch, as is an eyesore when he struggles. Having played international cricket for over a decade, Rohit, 32, is a mature batsman now. He has experience and has faced the new ball in ODIs and T20Is.

The Vizag track is expected to be a typical Indian Test wicket where the hosts would play two spinners. Rohit is casual in body language but inwardly he is a strong character who knows what it takes to be successful.

In 1960s and 70s, many middle-order batsmen like Dilip Sardesai have been asked to open the innings. Sardesai was a prolific run getter in domestic cricket but in the 1968 tour of Australia, he couldn’t put bat to ball against the likes of Graham McKenzie and was dropped after two Tests.

Dilip Sardesai

Dilip Sardesai was also tried as a Test opener.

He came back and was told to open for Bombay and the West Zone. Lacquer-coated Indian cricket balls, then, used to lose its shine as early as the fifth over. Lack of shine and seam helped Sardesai plunder runs as an opener in domestic cricket but against the West Indies, when English balls were used, he was found out and had to return to the middle order.

The same thing happened with Ashok Mankad, who started batting at No. 8 for Bombay in 1964-65. As the Indian middle order was packed with the likes of Chandu Borde, MAK Pataudi, he was asked to open the innings.

Vijay Merchant asked Vinoo Mankad whether his son Ashok Mankad can open the innings, to which Mankad senior reportedly said that if he could bat at all positions starting from No. 11 to No. 1, then he could also do it.

Mankad began well, scoring half centuries against Australia, his highest was 97 in Delhi. Then when he to England in 1971, the highest Mankad could score was 25 in six innings.

Ramesh Saxena is another prime example who was hugely successful against top-class spin bowling on tricky pitches. But Pataudi asked him to open against England at Leeds in 1967. He failed and never played Test cricket again.

Priyank Panchal

Talented opener Priyank Panchal has made a mark with consistent performances in domestic and List A cricket.

Saxena couldn’t capitalise on the opportunity. But one needs at least an opportunity to even fail. Priyank Panchal hasn’t even got a chance yet, despite scoring by the hundreds in domestic and List A cricket for the past five years. Originally an opener, he has now suddenly been asked to bat in the middle order by the selectors.

Opening is a specialised position. When you have a young talent scoring runs at the top, he should be given a chance, instead of fiddling around with his batting position.

The team management must have felt that dropping Rohit in the West Indies series was a mistake. And hence have given him the opportunity against South Africa. Two mistakes doesn’t make one right decision.

Rohit has apparently been assured of playing time in the entire South Africa series. The team management has out faith on him that should benefit him at Vizag.

Find more columns from our cricket columnist at Makarand Waingankar.

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Ranchi Test: Pacers put India on brink of series whitewash against South Africa

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Team India

Ranchi: India’s bowlers, led by Mohammed Shami, pushed Virat Kohli and boys closer to a 3-0 whitewash as South Africa were left tottering at 132/8 at stumps on Day 3 after following on in the third and final Test at the JSCA Stadium on Monday.

At close of play, Dean Elgar’s concussion substitute Theunis de Bruyn was batting on 30 with Anrich Nortje (5) for company. While Shami has figures of 3/10 in the second innings, Umesh Yadav has picked two as the Indian pacers once again dominated the show.

Bundled out for just 162 in the first innings, the Proteas were forced to follow on and they trail India by 203 runs with just two wickets in the bag in their second essay. While bad light did force the players to go off the field after the Indians asked for an extra 30 minutes at the fall of the eighth wicket, the South Africans are only delaying the inevitable.

To make matters worse for the Proteas, Elgar had to retire hurt post a knock on the helmet by a rising Umesh delivery just before the Tea break. India too had an injury concern as Wriddhiman Saha got hit on the ring finger of his left hand late and was replaced by Rishabh Pant in the last session of the day.

Earlier, a total of 16 wickets fell on Monday after South Africa resumed at 9/2. Umesh returned with figures of 3/40 in the first essay while Shami, debutant Shahbaz Nadeem and Ravindra Jadeja all scalped two wickets apiece. Ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, however, remained wicketless. For the tourists, Zubayr Hamza top-scored with 62.

Following on, there was no respite for the visitors as it was Shami who once again looked in lethal rhythm. He clean-bowled Hamza (0) first and then trapped skipper Faf du Plessis (4) in front as the score read 18/3. But the pacer wasn’t done and then sent back du Plessis’ ‘toss proxy’ Temba Bavuma for a duck, caught behind by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.

But the slide was started by Umesh when he sent opener Quinton de Kock’s off-stump cartwheeling with a beauty as the Proteas T20I skipper played inside the line of the ball. At the tea break, South Africa were 26/4.

In the morning session, the tourists had the worst possible start as they lost skipper du Plessis to a peach of a delivery by Umesh. Overnight-batsman Hamza, however, opted for counter-attacking technique thereafter and along with Bavuma, scored freely and made sure the visitors didn’t succumb to the pressure applied by the Indian bowlers.

Both Hamza and Bavuma collected boundaries at regular interval and kept the scoreboard moving. During the 91-run partnership, the 24-year-old Hamza went to score his maiden Test 50.

However, just when South Africa were looking like getting back into the game, Jadeja bowled a ripper to get past the bat of Hamza and brought an end to his 62-run knock. Bavuma didn’t stay long at the crease thereafter and became the first international scalp of debutant Shahbaz Nadeem at his individual score of 32.

Wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen, who came in next, didn’t trouble the scorers much and was bowled by Jadeja after contributing with six runs to South Africa total.

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Ranchi Test: Spinners run through Proteas middle order, SA 162 all out

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Team India

Ranchi: Team India have enforced the follow-on, as South Africa concluded their first innings at 162 here on Monday. South Africa, who began the day at nine for two, trail India by 368 runs.  India spinner Ravindra Jadeja rattled the South African batting after an entertaining half-century by Zubayr Hamza to leave the visitors reeling at 129 for six at lunch on day three.

Replacing an injured Aiden Markram, Hamza (62 off 79) showed fine application alongside Temba Bavuma (32) to give the Proteas some ray of hope after Umesh Yadav cleaned up skipper Faf du Plessis in his first over with a beautiful outswinger.

Hamza, who struck 10 boundaries, hit seasoned off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for a six over mid-on to bring up his maiden fifty.

Hamza showed fine application and collected boundaries at regular intervals tackling both pace and spin well while Bavuma gave him solid support in their 91-run stand for the fourth wicket.

The duo put up a much needed fight for South Africa before Jadeja provided the breakthrough by dismissing Hamza for 62 with a straighter one that crashed through the gate.

Then came “the big moment” for debutant Shahbaz Nadeem who had Bavuma stumped for his first wicket in international cricket. He foxed Bavuma with his flight as the batsman stepped out of the crease, leaving Wriddhiman Saha to do the rest.

Earlier, India had an eventful first over as Yadav produced an unplayable delivery that swung late to unsettle the off-stump of du Plessis, who left the crease shaking his head.

A few balls stayed really low while Shami was extracting fine bounce from the Pavillion end.

Yadav looked ominous and was unlucky a couple of times when Hamza edged it just short of Virat Kohli at first slip.

Hamza soon found himself at ease displaying some beautiful drives to race to his 50 off 56 balls.

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Rajasthan Royals appoints former Australian player Andrew McDonald as head coach

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Andrew McDonald

Mumbai: Inaugural IPL champions Rajasthan Royals have appointed Australian coach and cricketer Andrew Barry McDonald as their new Head coach for a tenure of three years.

The former Australian has coached Leicestershire, Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades. The 38-year-old, who played four Tests for Australia, had guided Victoria to the title win in Sheffield Shield in his first year as senior coach. The Victorian then moved the Renegades from 7th position to winning the Big Bash this year.

McDonald has been a part of the Indian Premier League in the past having played for Delhi Daredevils in the 2009 Indian Premier League before being signed up by Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2012–2013. He was also the bowling coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore.

“We are delighted to appoint Andrew as our Head Coach.  Andrew will be preparing for the season by sharing experiences and best practices with exceptional coaches in other sports and will be visiting India in the near future to meet the Royals team, both on and off the field.” said Ranjit Barthakur, Executive Chairman, Rajasthan Royals.

The interview panel for the Head Coach process included external experts and internal leadership which included Zubin Bharucha, Head of Cricket for Rajasthan Royals.

“I’m delighted to join the Royals family. It’s a great honour to take on this responsibility. The Rajasthan Royals is a new, exciting challenge for me, and I can’t wait to get started working with our world class players and coaches in one of the biggest sporting leagues in the world.” Andrew McDonald said.

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