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Indian captain Rohit Sharma addressing a press conference on the eve of the fifth and final Test in Dharamsala on Wednesday. Image Credit: AFP

Dharmshala: India’s Rohit Sharma said on Wednesday he had become a better captain over the hard-fought series against England, with the “pressure” of the tour forcing him to reflect on his shortcomings.

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England won the opener of the five-match series but India bounced back to take an unbeatable 3-1 lead ahead of the final match in Dharamsala on Thursday.

“It was a great series for me to learn as a captain and there are a lot of different challenges that came across our way,” Rohit told reporters.

Great series to be part of

“As a captain, I got to learn a lot about how to utilise the players and obviously, when the pressure is put back on you, how to respond to certain situations of the game and things like that. I think it was a great series to be part of.

“I am glad that I was captaining this series, it made me understand where I have lacked as a captain and what are the things I need to do differently.”

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India's Shubman Gill and Kuldeep Yadav having a laugh during the training session. Image Credit: AFP

Bazball style of play

Rohit succeeded Virat Kohli as Test captain in 2022 and has remained unbeaten as leader in five series, apart from India’s loss in the World Test Championship final last year.

Ben Stokes’ England won the opening match by 28 runs and kept up their attacking “Bazball” style of play to challenge India, who have not lost a Test series at home since 2012.

India responded despite the absence of stars including Kohli, who sat out the series after the birth of his second child.

Promising talent made the most of the opportunities, with 22-year-old opener Yashasvi Jaiswal notching up double centuries in matches two and three.

Indian bowlers also stood up with pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and veteran spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja all tied at 17 series wickets.

‘Series of comebacks’

“Since I became captain, I haven’t played with a full team. It’s no excuse… work with what you have, keep a good atmosphere and play with freedom,” said Rohit.

“Basically, it has been a series of comebacks. So throughout the series you must have seen that we have absorbed pressure and put it back on the opposition.”

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Ravichandran Ashwin, who will be playing in his 100th Test, trying to bowl a googly at the nets. Image Credit: AFP

Stokes agreed that India had outclassed England during moments in the series when the game was in the balance.

“India have been better than us in those moments on more than one occasion. It’s skill versus skill and in the moments that have mattered, since the first game, India have been better,” he said.

But when asked about being outsmarted by Rohit in the series, a visibly flustered Stokes said, “I will let you decide”.

The final Test will be a landmark 100th for Ashwin and Rohit was all praise for his veteran “match-winner”, who left the third match midway to be with his ailing mother and returned a day later.

Difficult situation

“The biggest thing is that he is a big team player and we saw that in the Rajkot Test when it was a difficult situation for him but he called and said ‘I want to come back and do something for the team’,” said Rohit.

“When you have players like this then your head is held high.”

England, meanwhile, have replaced fast bowler Ollie Robinson with Mark Wood the only change in their team for the fifth and final Test.

India have already won the series 3-1 and England will be fighting to salvage some pride in the high-altitude and chilly Himalayan hill town.

Veteran seamer James Anderson, 41, retains his place and is just two shy of becoming the third bowler to take 700 Test wickets after Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and the late Australian great Shane Warne (708).

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England's James Anderson playing football during a practice session. Image Credit: AFP

Snow-capped peaks

Struggling England batsman Jonny Bairstow will win his 100th cap and India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is also in line to reach the same milestone, having already passed 500 Test wickets during the series.

The weather in Dharamsala could play a huge part in the match. The picturesque ground is surrounded by snow-capped peaks at an altitude of 1,317 metres (4,320 feet).

There is a risk of sleet and forecasts say temperatures could plunge as low as 1 Celsius (34 Fahrenheit) on Thursday.

India won the fourth Test in Ranchi by five wickets and have not lost a home series since 2012, when Alastair Cook’s England won 2-1.