Mumbai: There is little to doubt Rohit Sharma's prowess as a powerful opening batsman for India in T20 internationals, with almost 70 per cent of his runs coming at the top of the order.
Unsurprisingly, he is keen to replicate this success for Mumbai Indians as well, announcing his intention to open the innings in the upcoming ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Rohit enjoyed a phenomenally successful IPL in 2015; not only did he lead his team to their second title, outplaying arch-rivals Chennai Super Kings, he was also among the top run-getters with 482 runs, second only to teammate Lendl Simmons. And last year, it was Simmons and Parthiv Patel who opened the batting for Mumbai, with Rohit bolstering the middle order.
This year, he is looking to go one better. "I would like to open, at least in the initial games. We will see where we stand after the first few games. We have got a great set of batsmen in our squad, so there is a bit of a headache about whom to pick in the XI," Rohit said at a Mumbai Indians press conference on Thursday.
However, his position will also depend on the team's combination. "A lot depends on what sort of balance we need. As captain, it’s my responsibility to go on to the field with the right combination. I would prefer to start opening the innings initially, but we will see where I stand and will take it from there," he added.
The right combination will be critical for the defending champions, especially considering how they started their last campaign with a string of defeats before making a stunning comeback. And, the captain isn't keen to repeat the necessity of that dramatic turnaround.
"In the last couple of years, we haven’t started very well. We don’t want to do so this year. It will be important to get some wins on the board at the start of the tournament and carry that momentum forward. It is very important to start the tournament in the way we want to. Over the years, we have seen that the T20 format is about momentum, the way you play in one game reflects on the next," Rohit said, stressing that he doesn't want to depend on the Net run-rate and the performance of other teams to qualify.
Mumbai Indians will start the defence of their title on 9 April against the new formed Rising Pune Supergiants, lead by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But the clash won't be the same without MSD's trademark CSK-yellow jersey. "Everyone will miss playing against CSK because they were tough competitors, Rohit replied, when asked about missing the MI-CSK rivalry. "Along with Mumbai Indians, they have been among the most consistent teams in the IPL and the kind of quality they brought to the table was immense, so playing against them was always exciting."
But he is quick to add that it's only the team that has changed, not the captain. "It won’t be the same, but it will be as good as we played against CSK, because knowing Dhoni, he will want to start out on a winning note. We would look at this game as any other game though," he said ahead of the IPL opener.
All eyes will also be on the ground conditions at Wankhede on Saturday night as Rohit, Dhoni and others will return to the stadium where they lost the World T20 semifinals to West Indies a week ago. When asked about the pitch, he admitted that one has to prepare extra to counter the conditions. "When you play at Wankhede, you have to be mindful about a lot of things," Rohit said.
The home team captain also had sound advice for the bowlers on how to succeed on a pitch known to favour batsmen. "Bowlers who have come with an aggressive mindset have always done well here. It doesn't have much on offer, but that gives them an opportunity. The batsmen are trying to come hard at them, so there is an opportunity to take wickets," he said.
Talking about the much-discussed dew factor, Rohit maintained that the team was well aware of the home conditions. "We have done well, guys here are used to it and there are a few new bowlers in the team who need to adjust to these conditions. But I am sure we will have everything in place," he said. "This is our home and this is our fortress, and we should know the conditions better than the other teams. It's just about being clear in the head about what you want to do and execute it well."