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Not looking to rush Rohit; it's about him finding his game: Kohli

There is little room for sentiments in Test cricket, but for India, who have grappled with the idea of Rohit Sharma: The Test cricketer for six years now, there is hope once again that their latest iteration will have the legs to payback years of faith. Virat Kohli revealed on Tuesday (October 1) that the plan to have Rohit open the batting in Tests was hatched a while ago, but a favourable situation never arose to put it into action. Until now.
As luck would have it, after attempting six different combinations over 2018, India were on the lookout for alternatives. KL Rahul's form nosedived and Prithvi Shaw's suspension forced the management to go down the Rohit route. The relatively soft landing of a five-Test home season was too good a moment to let slip. Given that this was Rohit making a move to the top of the batting order, there were strong forces of deja vu that greenlighted the plan.
"For us and the management together, the communication happened a long while back," Kohli said. "But we could not see a situation where that could happen in the match. But now we have a situation where, you know, the opportunity is there. So we thought it's the ideal time to go ahead with it because we have spoken about it.
"And, you know, in one-day cricket was the same with it. He played in the middle order, but then suddenly, opening conversion happened and within six to eight months, he was opening the innings. And you know what happened afterwards. So look, it's very exciting for him for the whole team, if he can, you know, do what he's done in one-day cricket at the top and then obviously, it's a great thing for him and Indian cricket."
Rohit, who incidentally was preferred over Ajinkya Rahane at the start of the last Test series against South Africa in January 2018, has only played four of India's last 17 Tests, with vice-captain Rahane, and later Hanuma Vihari fighting for one (or two based on bowling combination) spots. Given the recent upswing in fortunes of the latter two, India were left leaving Rohit out of the squad once again or make way for him elsewhere (top) in the order.
The 32-year-old's consistently outstanding white-ball form and his natural stroke-making abilities tilted the scales in Rohit's favour, outweighing even the massive technical challenges associated with a move to the top of the order. As the India captain would ascertain, this move needed but some mental fine-tuning to succeed. "Rohit's in a good space. Playing at number six also requires you to play the new ball every now and then you walk in. The good thing with opening is that, you know, you're going to face the new ball. So it's not old ball or new ball. So I think that much clarity, the opening slot provides you," Kohli said.
"Look, in Test cricket, I think even I started at six, initially, then came up to four, I think it's more of a mental change. The moment you convince yourself that, yes, I'm good enough to do this. And once you put that thought in your head, then your game follows accordingly."
For his part, Kohli and the team management are not pushing Rohit to take to opening against the red ball as seamlessly as he did over six years ago when pushed up to open in ODI cricket. In the words of Kohli, Rohit will be allowed to find his game. "Look, we're not looking to rush him at all, you know, it's about him finding his game accordingly because in India is it's going to be a different practice that you follow abroad is going to be different. So opening is a slot where you have to give a player space to, you know, understand his own game. So yeah, as I said, we're in no rush. He'll be given space to find his own game and come into his own," he said.
Kohli stated that Rohit would not be burdened with a reference point about the kind of opener the team management wanted him to become, but invoked the Virender Sehwag comparison anyway to talk about the 32-year-old's natural batting style.
"It's about finding your game in different conditions. Sometimes in India playing on pitches, say on day one, you know, the pitch is good to bat on, you might be playing more shots than you would in say South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England. But having said that, we are not looking at a certain kind of, you know, display of batting from Rohit, it's about him finding his game at the top," Kohli said.
"And yes, his strength is to take the game forward. So if he [can bat] like someone like Viru bhai used to do for the team for a long period... it's not like someone would have told him [Sehwag], you need to go and attack, or you need to get a hundred before lunch. Basically, his natural instinct took over. Once he felt comfortable with his game, he would demolish attacks and really put the team in pole position.
"So I'm sure in time, as Rohit grows into that role, he will be able to do that [as well], because he definitely has the ability to do that. And as I said, we are rushing him in no way to do that from innings one or innings two. It's about him feeling comfortable as to when he can do it. And that's been his strength, you won't see Rohit following the template of a [Cheteshwar] Pujara whose strength is totally different.
"It's about finding your own balance, finding your own game, we're not necessarily looking forward to one kind of mode from him at the top, it totally depends on the situation. If the wicket is challenging and we are three down and he is still in, obviously you won't see him smashing the ball all over the place. [He] is a mature cricketer, is smart enough to understand what the situation demands. But yeah, he and the whole team is looking forward to him playing his natural game whenever he feels absolutely comfortable in that spot."

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