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More than winning, Rohit Sharma wants to secure India’s future

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MUMBAI: India’s crushing victory over Sri Lanka was an impeccable start to Rohit Sharma’s reign as Test captain but the all-format leader says creating a bench strength to secure the team’s future will be a bigger challenge to him than winning matches.

The Mohali Test was Rohit’s first assignment as captain of India’s Test side after Virat Kohli stepped down in a surprise move after the team’s 2-1 defeat in their last series in South Africa.

The 34-year-old could not have hoped for a better start after India thrashed Sri Lanka inside three days by an innings and 222 runs.

India’s Test side, however, were not just transitioning to a new leadership against Sri Lanka but were also playing a match for the first time in over a decade with both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane missing from their batting lineup. The duo were dropped after inconsistent performances lately.

“It’s not just about 11 players, it’s also about the people who are sitting outside wanting to get their chances,” Rohit told reporters after Sunday’s win. “About creating that bench strength, which will hold the future of Indian cricket.

“If you create that bench strength and you start thinking from now, Indian cricket will be in good hands. That is one of my challenges and one of the responsibilities I want to take upon me.”

Rohit, who also leads India in 50 overs and Twenty20 formats, has promised to back the younger players in the side. The opening batter from Mumbai said he wants to give the cricketers a platform and clarity of roles so they can perform freely when their opportunity arrives.

“It’s going to be my biggest challenge, more than, in fact, winning games,” he continued. “For me what will be important is how I approach those guys who are sitting outside and how I can get them in good mindset.

“When they get an opportunity they should be very clear as to what they want to go out there and achieve. When you’re playing [for India], there will be a lot of pressure.

“But we as team management want to create a very healthy and positive atmosphere where guys are just going out there and doing what they are supposed to do.”

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2022

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