Rohit Sharma credits MS Dhoni with the turnaround in his ODI career, says opening the batting made him more aware of his own game. © BCCI

Rohit Sharma credits MS Dhoni with the turnaround in his ODI career, says opening the batting made him more aware of his own game. © BCCI

Rohit Sharma, the only man with two double-centuries in One-Day Internationals including a record 264, said that the credit for his transformation into one of the world’s leading one-day batsmen went to MS Dhoni, who first pushed Rohit to go up the order.

Rohit’s first match as a full-time opener came in January  2013, during India’s ODI series against England, where he hit 83 in the fourth ODI in Mohali in a five-wicket, series-clinching win for India. He then settled into his role further during India’s triumphant run in the Champions Trophy in England.

India have a similar schedule lined up in 2017, and will take on England in three ODIs and three T20Is before heading to the country to defend their Champions Trophy title in June. However, Rohit will be out of action for the upcoming series against England, having not yet recovered from a muscle injury that required thigh surgery during the ODI series against New Zealand.

“I believe the decision to open in ODIs changed my career and it was a decision taken by MS Dhoni. I became a better batsman after that. In fact it helped me understand my game better, react better according to situations,” Rohit told Press Trust of India on Wednesday (January 11). “He (Dhoni) just came up to me and said ‘I want you to open the innings as I am confident that you will do well. Since you can play both cut and pull shot well, you have the qualities to succeed as an opener’.”

Rohit, who has opened in 68 innings so far, has an average of 51.03 at the top to go with a strike-rate of 88.52. Both figures are significantly better than his overall numbers of 41.37 and 84.43.

“The Champions Trophy in England made me confident that I can open and was ready to face the challenges of playing the white ball in English conditions in the morning,” said Rohit. “I got 65 against South Africa, who had Morne Morkel, Ryan McLaren, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt. Morne and McLaren were hitting three quarter length and Tsotsobe was swinging it. The skipper was confident that I could handle the situation and I did.”

With Dhoni having recently made the decision to give up the limited-overs captaincy, Rohit said that there wouldn’t be another like him. “With no disrespect to other great Indian captains, I was blessed to play under MS all these years. His calmness in pressure situations helped us. He always led from the front. There won’t be one like him.”

On the rehabilitation front, Rohit said it could be anywhere between four to six weeks before he can resume playing. “I can’t set an exact date on when I will return to competitive cricket. I am told it would take 12-14 weeks for complete recovery. It means anything between four to six weeks from now,” he explained. “I have started running and from next week I will start with my batting drills. First the basic drills, followed by batting against bowling machines followed by proper net sessions.”

While the timeframe for recovery means Rohit’s realistic comeback target should be India’s four-Test series against Australia beginning on February 23, the batsman could face some time on the bench, with Karun Nair coming in and hitting an astounding 303 not out in the fifth Test against England.

“You can’t do anything about it (getting injured) and I have been in situations like this before. What disappointed me was the fact that the injury happened just when I was in rhythm scoring three successive 50s against New Zealand in Test matches. The pitches against England were good batting strips and it would have been enjoyable,” reflected Rohit. “(But) I have never ever been an insecure person. What would have happened if I wouldn’t have got injured is irrelevant. The fact is Karun got his chance and played brilliantly and should be applauded. In fact, I saw a bit of it when Karun and KL (Rahul) were batting. It was top quality stuff.”