Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma has confirmed that he will open the batting for the franchise in the forthcoming edition of the Indian Premier League.
The 31-year-old has often been criticized for batting down the order for Mumbai despite possessing a phenomenal record as an opener for India. Batting mostly at No. 4 or 5, Rohit has struggled to get going in the last couple of years, averaging less than 25 both the seasons.
"This year, I will open the batting in all the games. That's for sure. World Cup is one of the factors. But that (opening position) is where I have got a lot of success of late. The team understands that. We now have got some experience in the middle order. That allows me to go and bat at the top. I will try and open in every game possible," Rohit told the media on Tuesday (March 19).
"My approach will be the same as it is for any tournament. I have in the past batted in the middle order and I have opened as well in a few games. Yeah, wherever the team requires me to bat, I have to bat there. We have to make sure we get the right balance and team composition."
Both Rohit and Mumbai mentor Zaheer Khan were optimistic about the form and fitness of veteran Yuvraj Singh who was bought at his base price of Rs 1 crore.
“Yuvraj, as we all know brings a lot of experience to the table. He is a match-winner. He has done it for many teams in the past and he has been playing domestic cricket so that he is ready for this tournament," said Rohit.
Meanwhile, Zaheer said: “Many players go unsold. I’ve been unsold myself in the first round. Auction dynamics make you do that. Yuvraj Singh is a boost to the side because of his match-winning ability. We needed an experienced batsman who controls the game in the middle. Who is better than Yuvraj Singh to do this. He is looking forward to this season and making an impact.”
The three-time champions failed to qualify for the playoffs last season but Rohit said the players are quite pumped up this season.
“I’ve spoken to the boys myself in the Indian team, who are now playing with us - they all are eager to play and maintain the same intensity,” Rohit said.
Zaheer also revealed their bowling coach Shane Bond has been working closely with all-rounder Hardik Pandya who has been struggling with his back of late.
"When I saw him during Asia Cup, I was very concerned with kind of signs I saw on the field. But when I spoke to him (Hardik), I found out it's not a problem which he has faced for the first time. That's something which should be worked on because three or four years ago he had a similar kind of issue with the back," said Zaheer.
"It is related to what he feels when he is getting off through the crease (on follow through). It has a certain kind of impact which he's been working on. For a fast bowler, the kind of injury he had in Asia Cup is not easy.
"He has to be monitored. He's in consultation with the team of support staff. Everything is under control. So far he has done couple of bowling sessions. He's going to progress in that fashion.
"We have the great Shane Bond with us. You know the history of what he had gone through in his playing days. He's the right guy he (Pandya) should be talking to. He is someone who had that issue with his back which eventually had an effect on his career."
Keeping the World Cup in mind, Rohit also spoke about workload management during the course of the season.
"We've been on the road for the past couple of years. You have to listen to your body. If it needs rest, I'll take rest. We're here for the biggest league in the world. So we know our priorities," Rohit said.
"We have spoken to few players and they do want to play lot of games to stay in touch. If you take them away from the game, they will take some time to come back into form."
Zaheer felt that IPL form would count towards selection for a few slots in India's World Cup squad.
"Look at the past. Has IPL helped Indian selectors in identifying players. The answer is - yes. Has someone been picked on IPL performance - the answer is again yes. I am sure the form in IPL will matter for grabbing those available spots," he said.