Mumbai batsman hell-bent on being part of India's 2015 World Cup team after not making it for the 2011 edition
Emerging from finger and shoulder injuries that put him out of action for almost two months, India batsman Rohit Sharma will take a fresh guard today when India 'A' take on the touring Sri Lankan team in a warm-up match at Brabourne Stadium.
Rohit Sharma at the Brabourne Stadium nets yesterday ahead of India A's warm-up tie against Sri Lanka. Pic/Suresh KK
In an interview with mid-day, the 27-year-old opened up on his injury lay-off, rivalry with statemate Ajinkya Rahane for the ODI opener's slot, his late entry into Test cricket and a host of other issues.
Excerpts from the interview:
On the last season:
The whole year has not been great. Not just for me, but also for the Indian team. We did not do well outside India. But (to fire) as a unit, more time is required. It is important to get a little more exposure. I understand people talk about performing in overseas conditions. It is important for us to learn how to play outside India and the kind of mindset that is required. Playing overseas was a good learning experience. A couple of times we came quite close to winning a Test match. In England, we won a Test (at Lord's) but then lost our way. Personally, I wouldn't say it was disappointing, but I was a little upset with my performance. I will always keep learning. I am in a good space with my cricket right now; the mental aspect of my cricket is very good. I am coming back after an injury, so I will be a little nervous to start off. I have learnt a lot in this one year. It was a good challenging one with three tours abroad and with not much cricket in India. I want to put all that I have learnt into my game when I go out next time.
On being on the bench most of the time:
It (dropping from the playing XI) has nothing to do with my shots. I will back myself to play my natural game. With those shots even if I get out, I will never mind that. When I clear the fielder, it is a four or a six. It was all about the team combination. We wanted to play five bowlers which means one batsman had to sit out and it was always between Ajinkya and me. He batted really well abroad and deserved that spot. He did well in the Tests. I am happy for him. I can't do much about it… I just got one game. I was learning all the time, working hard in the nets. My focus was there, but when you don't get opportunities, you can't do much about it. I am looking forward to the Australia tour.
On his rivalry with Ajinkya Rahane:
There is no rivalry between us. This is coming only from the media. In my absence, he is opening (in one-day cricket) and it's not a big issue. When Sachin (Tendulkar) did not play, someone else was opening in his place. I was injured and someone replaced me in that position. My focus right now is on my comeback.
On the finger and shoulder injuries:
When you play well and get injured, it is quite frustrating. I was very unfortunate to get injured at a crucial period of my career. I got injured (on the eve of his Test debut) against South Africa (in 2009) and had to wait five years to make my Test debut. Again, in England, in 2011, I got injured after the first one-dayer and missed nine ODIs thereafter. Now it's nine ODIs – three in England, three against the West Indies and three against Sri Lanka now — I've missed. It's frustrating and it makes your comeback a lot tougher. But I understand my game and know how to deal with it. I am stronger now.
On the injury layoff:
Initially, I took good rest for a few days. I slowly started work on my finger, shoulders and the whole body later on. Ten days ago, I started batting. I'm excited to be back and play tomorrow. For the past few days, I wasn't comfortable about my batting. I wanted to get that feeling back of how, I used to bat before the injury. It is not the same when you come back after an injury. I am more or less comfortable now. When I play tomorrow, I will be able to anlayse it properly. I also watched a lot of movies, spent time with my family and close friends. I can't single out which movie, but all sorts of movies… comedy, thriller, sci-fi. My mental peace is my biggest strength. That really helped me calm down.
On the fear of missing out on the World Cup again:
When injuries happen, you don't know how long it is going to take. With the 2015 World Cup being far away, I wasn't thinking about it then (when he got injured in England). But that fear of missing the World Cup will always be there because I missed out on it in 2011 and I don't want to miss out on it anyhow this time. This injury took about two months exactly. The doctors told me it would take around four to six weeks. But I am excited to play a match tomorrow.
On the Test career:
Seven years (since his international debut), seven Tests mean I have played one Test every year which is not a good statistic. I am disappointed, but fortunes have also not gone my way. I was to make my Test debut in 2009 but got injured and had to wait till 2013. Injuries and a couple of disappointing series have kept me away. I am to be blame and no one else. But I cannot get frustrated and think too much about my game. I want to stay positive and look forward to every challenge. Hopefully, I will have much more to talk about when I meet you in 2015. It has not been great till now. I am looking at the next five months as tough and challenging part of my career.
On proving his Test mettle:
I have nothing to prove to anyone. I have to prove it to myself that I am much more capable of what I have done so far. The next five months, I have to be very focused and thought the process has to be very clear. I cannot have too many thoughts in my mind. These two months that I got were very helpful to work on the mental side of my game.
On living up to the potential of being a gifted batsman:
There is nothing like being gifted. Talking about myself, I wasn't a gifted batsman. I was a bowler when I started and had to work my way to become a batsman. Nothing has been gifted naturally to me. I have worked with my coaches at a young age on my batting. That elegance and all is good to see on TV, but you need to bring that into your game during practice. Nothing comes to me naturally. All that you'll see is a result of sheer hard work.
On avoiding distractions:
I know what my goal is. To get there I have to be disciplined. Over the years we learn with experience. You learn from people like Sachin, (Rahul) Dravid, (Anil) Kumble, (VVS) Laxman. They have had their glamourous life and also a disciplined life, and managed their careers very well. They were my role models when I came into the Indian team. I got to learn a lot from them. I have to avoid the distractions if I have to reach my goals.