Nagpur, February 11
India skipper Rohit Sharma gave a huge compliment to India’s spin-bowling pair of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, saying that leading them was similar to captaining Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc in Australia.
Ashwin and Jadeja scripted Australia’s collapse in the opening Test here as India took a 1-0 lead in the Border-Gavaskar series, defeating the visitors by an innings and 132 runs. Rohit also said that the Indian pair always aims to “reach the next level” while playing Tests.
“He (Ashwin) looks a different bowler. I wouldn’t say an improved bowler as he was always a good bowler but he looks a different bowler every time he plays Test cricket. That’s what good cricketers do. They try and up their game and try to reach the next level,” said Rohit.
Ashwin, who reached a personal milestone of 450 wickets in Test cricket, also picked up his 31st five-for and a match haul of eight wickets.
Asked about the feeling of captaining a side that has Ashwin, Jadeja and Axar Patel in its ranks, Rohit replied, “It’s like captaining (Pat) Cummins, (Josh) Hazlewood and (Mitchell) Starc in Australia. Pretty similar. When you have the quality of Axar, Jadeja, and Ash, having played in India for so many years, playing on pitches like these, it’s always a blessing.” Rohit, who scored a century and laid the platform for a 400-run total, said pitch conditions are the same for everyone but what makes the three India spinners special is their ability to extract the maximum out of the wicket.
“Conditions are there for everyone but what they extract from those conditions make them really, really special. They have played on these pitches a lot and they know which areas to hit, how to keep applying that pressure.”
Learnings from Kohli
Rohit also said he had picked up a few cues about how to work with spinners from his predecessor Virat Kohli’s time as a skipper.
“When Virat was captaining, I noticed one thing, no matter if we got a wicket or not, the pressure had to be there so that the opposition made a mistake.
“That’s what I learnt when Virat was captaining and these guys were bowling. That’s what I try to do now. Apply pressure and don’t expect wickets every ball; its not going to happen like that but if it happens, nothing like it. We’ve got to be at it, and keep putting the ball in right areas and let the pitch help you.”
Juggling three seasoned pros
Often, when there are three spinners in the side, one tends to get under-bowled. Rohit tickled a funny bone when he cited his “worries” while rotating the bowling between Ashwin, Axar and Jadeja.
“It’s a little tough. They are all reaching their personal milestones. Jadeja was on 249 wickets and he was telling me, ‘mere ko ball de’ (give me the ball).” “Ashwin was on four wickets and he wanted a five-for and that was the challenge I was facing. I really don’t know too much about milestones but these guys know about it, so yeah that’s the challenge of captaining them rather than deciding which end to give them or not,” said Rohit as everyone had a hearty laugh.
“Again the three guys are quality and, you know, whichever end is more helpful, all these spinners want to bowl from that end. But pressure is always on me to find the right end for the right one.”
What did Ashwin do and the Aussies didn’t
Ashwin had enviable match figures of 8/79 from 27.5 overs sent down in two innings. When compared with the Australian off-spin duo of Nathan Lyon (1 wicket) and Todd Murphy (7 wickets), who together sent down 96 overs, one need not scratch his head to know who is the better bowler in Indian conditions.
“Ashwin has played so much cricket in India and is closing in on playing 100 Tests (89). I am pretty sure he has played most of those Tests in India and not to forget the first-class games as well before he made his debut,” Rohit explained.
“A lot of cricket and overs have gone into skills and being able to do what he is doing now; to be able to extract something out of pitch, it is not easy.” “He can bowl that carrom ball and top spin and slider. The guy has got everything. The reason he is able to extract (so much) from the pitches is because of (the) skill-sets that he has. He is a very studious guy and likes to understand his game and take it to the next level.”
Rating the knock
Rohit might have scored one of his best Test hundreds but the captain said he will not compare his 120 at Nagpur with the 161 he scored at Chepauk against England in 2021.
“I keep it where it is,” he curtly replied, when asked where he would rank the knock among his nine Test hundreds.
“Honestly, I am not too much into rating one knock above the other. Every time you play a knock like that it is important, so it is unfair to put one knock above the other. Both have come under different circumstances.
“In Chennai, we were one Test match down, we had to win. And, especially in home conditions when you are one-down, you are under pressure to do things right.
“Both (centuries) had their own challenges and I am very happy with the two knocks. When you come up with performances like these, you really feel good about it; it gives you lot of confidence also,” he concluded.
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