Having enjoyed a run-filled 2019, Rohit Sharma is currently enjoying a deserved break even as his India teammates are squaring off against Sri Lanka in a T20I series at home. Rohit scored a record five centuries at the ODI World Cup last year before making a successful return to Test cricket where he was promoted to open the innings.
Having finally tasted consistent success in the longest format, a tough overseas assignment awaits Rohit in the form of New Zealand tour where seam-friendly conditions are surely going to be a challenge. New Zealand have a fiery pace attack comprising Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Tim Southee and Matt Henry.
“New Zealand is not the easiest place to play cricket. Last time, we lost the Test series (0-1) but we gave a good fight. But this bowling attack of ours is completely different from what we had back then,” Rohit told PTI. “For me personally, it’s going to be a challenge without doubt, facing the new ball bowlers and the guys who bowl in the middle overs.”
For Rohit, the recent home Test series against South Africa was a good preparation for the swing-friendly conditions he’ll encounter in New Zealand. “Facing the new ball in any conditions is not that easy. Of course, it’s lot tougher outside India. But then, we played three Test matches against South Africa and I have never seen the ball swing so much in India like it did in Pune (second Test),” he said.
He continued, “The first few overs that they (SA) bowled, the pitch was damp and so they got pretty much everything out of it. In Ranchi (where he got a double hundred) also, we were three down in no time. But I know what to expect as I have been there the last time (2014 series). Not the easiest of conditions but I will be ready for that challenge.”
On what makes New Zealand pacers a lethal combo, Rohit said, “…they come up with plans and stick to them. It’s one thing to make a plan without being able to execute it and another to make a plan and implement it to the T. That makes a lethal bowling combination.”
The success Rohit has finally found after opening in Test cricket could have come much earlier had the switch been made before. But he has no regrets. “I know I could think that way…I know it happened late but must have happened for good. That’s what I am thinking now honestly. In fact, I am happy that whatever is going on in my career right now is in my favour. Whatever has happened in the past, I cannot change that. I am happy that at least an opportunity to open the batting came to me and I have enjoyed batting up the order,” the 33-year-old said.
Personal glory has never been the goal for Rohit who feels that as his career has progressed, he has gained a better understanding of his own batting. “I don’t know how to describe it but I am really happy what we could achieve as a team. If you know me, at no stage of my career has personal glory been important. The milestones (2442 runs in a year as opener) are fine but winning every series is what we focus on.
He added, “If you are playing well, milestones will be reached along the way. I would take credit for the fact that I now understand my game very well than what it was previously. I stuck to my gameplan and that actually worked for me.”
While India are the top-ranked Test side and are regarded as one of the top limited-overs side, they haven’t won a major ICC trophy in the past six years, the latest being the ODI World Cup where they made it to the semi-finals.
With the influx of youngsters who will soon get a hang of playing together, Rohit says things will change. “Things are changing now. Shreyas (Iyer) is No.4 now and he is doing pretty well. Rishabh (Pant) did well in the West Indies ODIs. Shivam (Dube) has started doing well. So, I am confident, our youngsters will step up. The problem is that between KL (Rahul), Rishabh, Shreyas and Shivam, they haven’t played many matches together as a team. But that will happen now and once that happens, they will get some confidence,” he said.
He continued, “Shreyas knows that he will now bat at No.4 for years to come. He feels secure and can now execute his plans freely. The other guys will first need to make the respective spots their own. KL has had a good time and will go in with a good mindset moving forward. We can’t really judge them as a group after two or three matches. We need to wait till they have played sufficient matches together.”
He hasn’t made post-retirement plans and for him the goal remains to win world cups. “I don’t make such plans. Right now, there are a few World Cups to be won,” he said.