Rohit Sharma oozes talent but….. There was always a big, ugly ‘but’ that made one of the most naturally talented and elegant batsman of modern Indian cricket the target of criticism and frustration. And Rohit will be the first to admit that most of it was warranted. But those days are gone.
That talented ‘but’ underperforming Rohit Sharma is a thing of the past. Meet Rohit Sharma version 2.0 – a new, improved cricketer whose temperament is as solid as his strokeplay is elegant. This statement stems from more than just the innings he has played and the runs he has scored in the last month. It is a reflection of the maturity in his eyes, the confidence in his body language and the humility in his actions.
Days after notching up the third ever double hundred in an ODI, opening the innings, Rohit walked in to bat at 6 on his Test debut, at the fall of Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket, when India were 82 for 4. West Indies’s first innings total of 234 suddenly started to look mammoth as off-spinner Shane Shillingford ripped through India’s top-order.
It was Rohit, first with MS Dhoni and then with R Ashwin, that got India to a sizeable first-innings lead. After the second day’s play, Rohit, unbeaten on 127, opened up in an interview with bcci.tv about the first six years of lost opportunities at international cricket and the making of his brand new avatar.
Who has been writing your scripts of late?
I don’t know but whoever is writing them, please continue. Seriously, I have lost a lot of years and opportunities and now I want to make up for it. When I came here, my sole aim was to carry on my ODI form. Getting a hundred here was doubly special because first, it was my debut and secondly, the team was in a spot of bother, having lost five wickets quite early. I wanted to build the innings and I am glad I could do that.
What stands out about the new Rohit Sharma is the temperament and willingness to stay at the wicket for long. How has this change come about?
When I started playing international career, I wasn’t sure about how to approach my innings; I didn’t know the art of building innings. Since then I have played a lot of first-class cricket and have done well at that level. But it just didn’t happen at the international level, no matter how hard I tried. Now that things are going my way, I just want to keep focusing on my game without thinking what is happening around me.
Is it fair to say that opening the batting in ODIs has brought about your rebirth in international cricket and helped you build this temperament?
I would say so, because when you are opening the innings, you need to be patient and play yourself in. You need to gauge the situation, the wicket, the bowing attack and plan your innings accordingly. When you’re opening, the onus is on you to give the team a solid platform and for that you have to bat sensibly. It made me realize that the only thing I have to look to do is stay at the wicket for a long time. Once I get in, I have the strokes to score runs fluently. I have played enough first-class cricket to understand my game and have played a lot of long innings to know how they’re planned.
How did you go about changing your mindset from opening in ODIs to batting at 6 in Test cricket?
It wasn’t tough because I bat in the middle-order for Mumbai against the red ball. Also, the patience that I have to show opening the batting in ODIs is the same batting in the middle-order in Tests. On both occasions you have to take the conditions into account and build the innings. At times you have to give respect to some bowlers, which is what I did today. Initially it wasn’t easy to bat, especially against Shane Shillingford. But I knew that the bowlers will get tired and the number of loose balls will increase.
Since you started captaining Mumbai Indians, there is a newly seen maturity about you, which was missing earlier.
It’s true that the Mumbai Indians captaincy helped me mature as a cricketer because I was thrust into taking responsibility and had to lead from the front. I had to be more focused and aware of the whole game. I understood that responsibility is a very big part of cricket and life. And with the team, I started to take responsibility of my own game as well. As I did all that successfully, I grew in confidence, and cricket is all about confidence; when you have it, you feel that things are automatically happening exactly the way you want. You also learn how to react when put into a tough situation.