The languid Mumbai batsman struck 161 off 231 balls, studded with 18 fours and two sixes; and alongside Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit helped the team recover from the loss of three early wickets.
Rohit has thrived as Test opener in Indian conditions since his promotion to the role in 2019 and averages a phenomenal 83.55 at home, but the first-day surface at Chepauk was slightly different from what he has encountered in the recent past. The ball was turning sharply from the opening session, and Rohit’s effective use of the sweep shot was part of his preparation for this Test.
“We knew how the pitch was prepared. We knew it was going to turn. We had a few good training sessions before the game and practised according to what we were expecting in the middle. We wanted to make sure we used our feet a lot more and made sure we swept the ball. When you play on turning pitches, you have got to be proactive. You cannot be reactive. The preparation really helped,” Rohit said after his “satisfying” effort on Saturday.
While Rohit used his feet equally well through the day, it was clear that he had made a concerted effort to employ the sweep shot too. According to the 33-year-old, who said that he also advised Rahane to play the sweep during their partnership, it was a safe shot against England spinners Moeen Ali and Jack Leach, even though it ultimately brought about his downfall.
“You cannot be tentative on a pitch like this. Moeen especially was trying to bowl in the rough areas outside my off-stump. There was very little chance of being out LBW when you are sweeping from there. The deep square leg was back. Even if I top-edged it, it was going to land in a safe area. If you are playing the sweep shot well, it can frustrate a bowler,” was Rohit’s game-plan.
By the time India got to the lunch interval, Rohit had raced away to 80 off just 78 balls. The second half of his innings took more time, but it was just a case of him reacting to the ball through his innings.
“I was just playing to the merit of the ball. But I also wanted to make sure that intent was there. When you play on a pitch like that, you have to look to score runs,” he said.
Rohit was asked where he rates this particular knock, but he stayed clear of venturing in that direction. “I am not going to rate any of my knocks. Every knock comes under different pressure. I am happy to get runs and make sure my team is in a comfortable position,” he said.