India’s batsmen may be reeling under the onslaught of South Africa’s pace bowlers on bouncy wickets in the ongoing ODI series, but opener Rohit Sharma dismissed talk of lack of technique, blaming the debacle on want of application.
Rohit said the South African conditions are not a problem for the Indian batsmen and the fault lay mainly in the lack of big partnerships, which he said resulted in the visitors already losing the three-match series after back-to-back defeats.
"Last game in Durban, the conditions were pretty much similar to what we get in India. There was a bit of bounce, but as a batsman you need to understand that you are playing in South Africa. It is really up to each individual how they tackle it, understand their game and adjust accordingly and know what shots to be played on these kind of pitches," said Rohit, at the match-eve press conference, ahead of Wednesday’s third and final ODI in Centurion.
"What are missing are partnerships. Over the last year, we have maintained good partnerships and it is not happening here. We need to get one 100-run partnership and a couple of 50-run partnerships. That is not happening, but I am sure we have one more game and hopefully the batsmen will step up and take the responsibility," he said.
Rohit said the team is hoping to put up a better show in the third ODI.
"The ball swings here more than in India, but we have played in England and in West Indies. Coach Duncan Fletcher has been telling us that this is the best to bat, once you are in. It is about understanding what shots you need to play," he said.
"We are here to compete and not have fun and just look around South Africa. Since the day we arrived here we have wanted to prove a point. We tried our best, but unfortunately it did not work out. Tomorrow's game will give us an ideal opportunity. The bowlers will have to step up, and the batsmen will have to step up. We need to get together.
"The Test series will be a different ball game. We are not actually thinking about it right now. We are all focused on how to win this game," he added.
In the beginning, all talk was about Indian bowling adjusting to the conditions and then trying to challenge the South African batsmen. Over the course of two ODIs, the focus has shifted from bowlers to the batsmen. While the bowlers redeemed themselves by restricting the Proteas to 280 in 49 overs in second ODI in Durban, the batsmen came a cropper even on a slower pitch than that at the Wanderers.
"In Durban, the bowlers bowled really well, bowling good spells; both spinners and fast bowlers. We were supposed to chase 280. Our drawback in this series was we kept losing wickets at regular intervals, which is not going to help when chasing such targets. I feel those partnerships are crucial.
“If you keep losing wickets, there is not much you can do.
"There is no excuse of being short on match practice. We have been playing continuously in the last three months or so," said Rohit, negating the favoured line of defence of the squad so far.
"We just need to be aware of our shot selection, nothing else."
Perhaps he hit the nail on its head. India's best partnerships have come from lower down the order. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja added 50 runs for the sixth wicket at the Wanderers. Dhoni put up 40 runs for the fifth wicket with Suresh Raina in Durban. In both instances, it was a case of too little too late, as the top-order collapse put chasing totals out of the question.
But there was an argument in favour of the top-order trio of Rohit, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. They have been India's in-form batsmen over the past year and, as such, the middle order, comprising Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh (and Ajinkya Rahane in Durban) has not scored the desired runs.
"It is not that they are out of form. They are batting well whenever they have got chances. It is just that off late our middle order hasn’t got much time to bat in the middle," Rohit said, referring to the two ODI series at home, against Australia and West Indies.
"Moreover, it is the responsibility of each and every individual, whoever is in needs to make sure he gets the team into a good position whether it is a top-order batsman or a middle-order batsman," he added.
Image: Rohit Sharma