India news September 19, 2015

Rohit slams his 'talented' label, says it's 'unfair and wrong'

ESPNcricinfo staff

Rohit Sharma on his first innings dismissal at P Sara Oval: "I forgot about my natural game, which is anything but blocking the ball." © Associated Press

India batsman Rohit Sharma has railed against the popular perception that he isn't making best use of his abundant natural talent, saying that he has got where he is through sheer hard work. Rohit said that the widespread opinion about him was "unfair and wrong."

"People say, 'Boss, this guy is gifted and he can do this and he can do that.' But nobody knows what happens behind the scenes," Rohit told DNA. "Nobody knows about the hard work that's been put in.

"This 'talent' talk has messed things up for me. I started my career as a bowler. I was never a batsman. All this natural talent, god's gift that you guys in the media talk and write about is unfair and wrong. I have worked on my batting to get here. I used to bat at No. 8. From there, I made my way up. Ask my coach, Mr Dinesh Lad, and he will tell you that I was an offspinner.

"Whatever I have achieved is because of my hard work. All these terms like 'lazy elegance' have been coined by you guys. Maybe on TV it comes across like that, but that's not the right way to judge anyone. One must get to the root of the matter. I became a serious batsman during my under-17 days. I broke the middle finger of my right hand during a 50-over match against the visiting Sri Lankans in 2005. It was difficult for me to grip the ball after that injury. That's how I became a regular batsman."

Rohit made his Test debut in the home series against West Indies in November 2013, having already played 108 ODIs since June 2007. He began with two hundreds in his first two innings, but has not scored one in 23 innings since. Rohit has 870 runs at an average of 37 in 14 Tests so far.

"Honestly, as a batsman, there is a lot more I have to do," he said. "That's very, very clear to me. Fourteen Test matches is nothing. I have nothing great in Test cricket. This is just the start. In ODI cricket, yes, I know have done well, especially after becoming an opener."

Rohit made 202 runs in six innings during India's recent 2-1 Test series win in Sri Lanka, their first victory in the country since 1993. He was their second-highest runscorer, though only four specialist batsmen played all three matches. Rohit was out for 9 and 4 in the defeat in Galle, but contributed 79, 34, 26 and 50 to India's wins in the next two Tests. The 79 was Rohit's highest score since his debut series, but his push for a third hundred was cut short in the final over of the first day at the P Sara Oval, when he was lbw to Angelo Mathews.

Elaborating on that dismissal, Rohit said it had come about because he had not played his natural game. "Just before I got out on 79, I told [Wriddhiman] Saha, 'Partner, you know what, the light is fading and I think this is going to be the last over. Let's just play out this over and come back tomorrow.' The idea was to just to block those six balls and get back into the dressing room. But I ended up making a big mistake. I thought hard about survival. And what did I do by doing that? I forgot about my natural game, which is anything but blocking the ball. So, I got out because I did something completely different.

"I was thinking of stumps, staying not out and going to the dressing room. I was over-cautious instead of being just me. The moral of the story is: Do not tweak your natural game."

One aspect of his game that Rohit said he had been born with, however, was his temperament. "Now, that's a natural gift. That's something I was born with. Actually, I have never had to work on staying relaxed or calm. Even in the middle, I take my mind off cricket in between deliveries and overs. I don't think about the swing, the wicket or the bowler. I look at the scoreboard, I look at the fans sitting in the stands, I look at the guy playing the drums. I divert my mind."

India's next Test series is at home against South Africa in November and December, and there is stiff competition for place in a shortened batting line-up. If India continue to use the five-bowler plan that worked for them in Sri Lanka - and if all batsmen are fit - then M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit will be competing for five spots.

"Let the people who are in charge of the team take that call," Rohit said. "I am a team man. It doesn't matter if I am in the XI or not. I still represent India. I am still part of the team. And I will do whatever is expected of me."