Rohit Sharma’s belated success as a Test opener has gladdened many a heart. Former Indian opener and Bengal coach Arun Lal is one of those who are happy and relieved that the stylist from Mumbai seems to have finally found his quick-moving feat in the demanding arena of Test match cricket.
“There isn’t a better player that I like to watch than Rohit,” Lal said in an interview to The Hindu a little after Bengal crushed Hyderabad by an innings and 303 runs at Kalyani. “It is good to see him finally succeeding as a Test opener. It is such a pleasure watching him bat; I also used to admire V.V.S. Laxman.”
From among his contemporaries Lal, who played 16 Tests and 13 ODIs for India, regards Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar highly. “It was an honour opening with Gavaskar,” he said. “As a batsman he was very intelligent. The best thing about him is that he never patronised me.”
He recalled batting was far more difficult those days, because of the quality of bowling, especially fast bowling. “Those were the bowlers’ decades,” he said.
“You had Imran Khan, who was the toughest bowler I faced, Patrick Patterson, who was the fastest, Richard Hadlee, Ian Bishop and several others.”
India didn’t boast too many menacing pace bowlers at that time, though. “Now we have so many quality pacers and this is something I never expected to happen in Indian cricket,” he said.
“Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are the best of the lot and it is great to see so many youngsters coming through such as Bengal’s Ishan Porel and Akash Deep and Kerala’s Sandeep Warrier, who destroyed us in the Ranji Trophy last year at the Eden Gardens.”
He is disappointed though that India isn’t producing enough spinners. “That is a worry, as we always had great spinners,” he said.
Lal isn’t very happy with the way the Ranji Trophy is shaping up, either. “I see a lot of desperation among the teams to come up with under-prepared wickets,” he said.
“And that is because there is too much importance on an outright win. I think there shouldn’t be six points for a win; it should be just five.”
Lal, who scored more than 10,000 runs in First Class cricket, also wants India’s Test cricketers to play at the Ranji Trophy.
“There shouldn’t be any tours by India A team during the Ranji season,” he said. “We have to remember that our Test cricketers are the products of our domestic championship.”