Former Indian fast bowler Zaheer Khan feels the team management has made the right move by deciding to open with Rohit Sharma in the forthcoming three-Test series against South Africa. On the sidelines of the T10 event, scheduled to be held in Abu Dhabi, Zaheer, also spoke about why the team management shouldn’t be impatient when it comes to Rishabh Pant. Excerpts:
The senior selection committee chairman MSK Prasad has said that Rohit Sharma will open in Tests. How do you view this move?
It’s good if he opens. I think he (Rohit) will feel comfortable as well because he already opens in white-ball cricket. Virender Sehwag had also said that the best thing that happened to him was opening in Test cricket after opening in ODIs. The rhythm is set for him because he has been opening for a long time. He is in a zone now. What happens is, when you bat at four or five position, a batsman has to wait. That can upset a batsman’s rhythm. The comfort zone is the key.
But in Sehwag’s case he got to open in Test cricket much earlier in his career than Rohit?
But Rohit is in the form of his life right now. So, it’s understandable that one wants to see him play more games right now.
How much patience do you think the Indian team management should show in Rohit’s case in Test cricket. He is 32 and there are young players like Prithvi Shaw who will try to make a comeback?
Time will only tell but the decision which has been taken now is on the lines that you can’t keep a player like Rohit out of the team. It’s an opportunity for Rohit and also for the team to have such an in-form player. It also needs to be seen that in the coming home series will India go with four bowlers or five bowlers? In the West Indies, three fast bowlers and one spinner played. In India, two spinners will play, so will the team go for only two seamers? Or will the team go with five bowlers.
Have you spoken to him about playing Tests?
Of course, he is keen to play. When you look at the series which went by, including the England one, if Rohit had been there it could have made a difference. When you have someone like Rohit in the team, he deserves to be part in the playing eleven.
Do you relate Rohit and Yuvraj’s career, especially in Test cricket. Both are most successful in ODI format?
Not really. Rohit has faced different kind of challenges in Test cricket and he himself has put his hand up for opening the innings.
Do you think this series will be a make or break one for Rohit’s Test career?
No, I clearly don’t see this series as a make or break one for him. The team management needs to have clarity on whether you want a player or don’t want a player. There is no doubt Rohit will succeed. Do you have any doubts about it?
Is this best bowling unit India has ever had?
Bowling unit all put together, you can say that. We always had special talent coming along. If you recall 2003, there was the experience of Srinath, myself, Ashish (Nehra), Ajit (Agarkar), we contributed to the team’s success. Over the years, you are seeing this impact of access to the knowledge, in terms of preparation, the fitness level. The gap has reduced and that has had a positive impact. One of the main reasons for India’s success was playing with five bowlers. I think that we never used to have that often. Five bowlers do create that intensity and help take 20 wickets.
How does one preserve Bumrah, especially with non-stop cricket happening?
Bumrah should play as many games as possible, I always endorse that. More matches you play, more experience you get. That bowling rhythm and fitness is very important. You have to strike that right balance. The way Bumrah has evolved in such a short span of time has been remarkable. He is a thinking bowler. You can achieve such success, when you keep improving, keep thinking, keep upgrading.
Are people getting a bit restless over Rishabh Pant’s failures? Even Indian team management?
He is a great talent who needs to be nurtured in the right way. It’s the responsibility of team management to have an environment where he can flourish as a player. He has shown what kind of ability he has; he is a match-winner. We have to create a platform to make him express his talent rather than burden him by expectations.
But if you are getting so many chances and still fail?
You need to create an environment; you have to send him in a situation which will make things easy for him. Try to send him when there is not too much of a pressure situation. He can take his time and play out his innings.