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The India captain on Kohli’s 100th Test, his favourite Kohli Test knock and the opening combination

 

India’s Test cricket is at the precipice of a proper changing of the guard. There is a new captain, and the team is about 300 caps lighter in experience. Two new batters will have to pick up spots that have been occupied more or less since 2012. The new captain, though, is in no hurry to move on from the achievements and the contributions of those making way.

 

 

 

When asked about Virat Kohli’s 100th Test, Rohit Sharma spoke glowingly. “It has been [an] absolutely brilliant journey for him,” Rohit said. “A long one. To go on and play 100 Tests, it has been a wonderful journey. He has done exceedingly well in this particular format. Changed so many things in the way the team is moving forward. It has been brilliant to watch that. It has been one hell of a ride for him. It will continue to be in the years to come. We definitely want to make it a special one for him.

 

 

“As a team I think the series we won in Australia in 2018-19 was a very good series for us. He was the captain there. As a batter, the best memory is the century in Johannesburg in 2013. On a challenging pitch, which had a lot of bounce, and all of us were playing in South Africa for the first time. And he faced Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Philander and Jacques Kallis… it was never going to be easy. The way he batted, got a century in the first and scored 90-odd in the second… it was the best knock I remember. Perth 2018 was also special but I think this beats that one.”

 

Even when looking forward to his own upcoming stint as a captain, Rohit made it a point to acknowledge Kohli. “I am looking forward to just win games as much as possible and do the right things with the right players in the squad,” Rohit said. “As a Test team we, at the moment, stand in a very good position if you look at our last five years in Test cricket. The whole credit goes to Virat himself to get us going in this particular format. What he has done with the Test team over the years was brilliant to see.”I have to take it honestly from where he has left. The team stands in a very good position. Of course we are somewhere midway in the WTC table. But honestly I don’t think we have done anything wrong in the last two or three years of Test cricket. Of course we want to improve every game that we play. That is always going to be the benchmark for ourselves moving forward.”

 

 

One of Rohit’s first big captaincy calls will be to find the right replacements for Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, but even there he spoke of their contribution first. “Those are big shoes to fill,” Rohit said. “Never easy for the guys who come in. Even I don’t know who is going to come in. You have to wait till tomorrow morning. But yeah what Pujara and Rahane have done for this team, you can’t put it in words. All these years of hard work, playing 80-90-odd Tests matches, all those overseas Test victories, India getting to No. 1 in the Test format, these guys helped us throughout and played a big part in that. There is no way they are not being looked at in the future. They will definitely be part of our plans in the future. Like the selectors also said, it is just for now that we didn’t consider them. There is no guarantee, nothing written about them that they will not be considered for future series.”

That doesn’t mean, though, that Rohit is not excited with what he is now working with. “Those guys who are going to replace Pujara and Rahane, they have done exceedingly well whenever they have got an opportunity, whether it is first-class cricket back home or India A tours or whatever limited opportunities they have got playing Test cricket,” Rohit said. “I think we need to just back these guys to come good for us. At times, we need to look forward. Those guys have been waiting for a while now. Hopefully they can turn things around for us. It is just not about one or two games but I am looking at a number of years for them playing for India and doing well for us.”

 

 

India’s last few captains with the exception of Anil Kumble packed it in by the time they got to the age Rohit is when he is starting his captaincy. The last two-three years have been great for him, but it can be argued just 43 Test caps in such a long career is a middling return. Rohit, though, said he was not looking at any personal targets.

 

“What target should I set for me?” Rohit said. “My targets are set for the team. I am not thinking about myself. I am happy with 40 [Tests]. I don’t have regrets. Quite a few injuries, quite a few ups and downs, but that goes on in life and in cricket. You will never get a smooth ride in cricket. The ups and downs will teach you a lot. Now I don’t have personal targets that I have to do this, I have to do that. In front of me is a big job. I am just thinking we have to do well for the team.”

 

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