India vs England: Rohit Sharma defends spin-trap as home advantage

If the pitch for the Day-Night Test at Motera behaves on the same lines as the one for the second Chennai Test, it would neither surprise nor disappoint Rohit Sharma.

The Indian opener, who hit a match-setting 161 in the first innings on a rank-turner to help the team get back on terms in the series, sees nothing wrong in teams exploiting home advantage in terms of pitch and conditions. He argued that both teams have the opportunity to utilise the surface on offer.

The pitch for the second Test aided spinners from the start, with the Indian trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav much more adept at using it than their England counterparts, Jack Leach and Moeen Ali. It’s a formula that is likely to be carried forward in the pink-ball Test, which usually is dominated by seam and swing bowlers. Rohit doesn’t see anything wrong in it.

“…The pitch is the same for both the teams, so I don’t know why this topic is raised every time. Both the teams play on the same pitch. People say pitches shouldn’t be like this or that but for years Indian pitches are made like this only,” Rohit said during a virtual press conference. “I don’t think there needs to be any changes. Every team takes advantage of their home conditions.”

India’s chances of qualifying for the World Test Championship (WTC) final in June depends on the outcome of the England series, and defeat in the first match has prompted the think-tank to throw the spin-punch at the visitors.

Pink-ball Test with a difference

The convention of leaving 6mm of grass cover on the pitch for a pink-ball Test has not been followed at Motera. Combined with the historical nature of the surface – slow and turning – it is likely to afford more joy to spinners than pacers. It could play right into the hosts’ hands in the game starting on Wednesday.

“I don’t see anything changing in the pitch from what we played in the second Test. It’s more or less going to be on the same page. It’s going to be turning as well and we are preparing according to that,” Rohit said.

“When we go out other countries don’t think about us, so why should we think about others? We should make pitches according to the preference of our team. This is what it means (by) home-and-away advantage, otherwise this should be taken out. Tell ICC to make a rule that pitches should be prepared the same everywhere.”

All in the mind

At the end of the day, it’s the skills and their application that decide the outcome of games, he argued.

“When we go outside, our opponents too make our life difficult. So, I don’t think we should talk much about pitches. We should talk about the game, the players,” Rohit added.

One needs the right attitude to deal with a difficult pitch, rather than being spooked by the challenge.

“I don’t think much about pitches. If you think too much about it, the pitch won’t change. So, the focus should be on how to play on the given pitch, what technique is needed. We need to prepare our mind according to the pitch,” he said.

With the stakes so high, Rohit acknowledged that India can’t afford any misstep while keeping their mind on the present assignment.

“Yes, of course we want to qualify, we want to be there in the (WTC) final but we still need to do a lot of things right to get there. When we are playing, the focus is only on what we need to do to win the game. There are little steps which we need to take before we reach the final. It’s too far ahead still. It’s very important to stay in the moment. It is important to stay in the present and focus on the job at hand.”

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