Rohit puts World Cup disappointment behind him
Rohit Sharma is probably the Indian batsman who makes the fans tear their hair out the most in frustration. Modern-day Indian fans love their batsmen to be flashy. They like it when the batsmen hit the ball on the up. They see class in style and in flamboyance. Conservative batsmen like a Cheteshwar Pujara or S Badrinath don't quite set their hearts racing as someone like Rohit does. They admired Rohit's talent, they sighed as he wasted it in the initial days and they accepted the selectors' decision to drop him before the World Cup. They hoped that the drop would get him back on track.
Rohit didn't quite see it that way, or at least verbalise it that way, but said he has put behind him the disappointment of not being selected in the World Cup and that he is focussed on getting his career back on track. "Yes I was very disappointed in not being part of the World Cup but I have to move on," Rohit said after top scoring for India in the win against West Indies. "I had a good IPL. Whenever you are in good form, you have to carry on. Today was a perfect day. It wasn't an easy track; it was very slow and turning a bit. You need a lot of time to keep the innings going. Till 35 I didn't score a single boundary or a four."
There was a brain fade early on his innings, though. In fact, when he was still on zero. Devendra Bishoo flighted one on a length well outside off and Rohit lunged out and tried to play a very expansive shot. The ball swirled off the top edge but landed safely beyond mid-off. It was the jail-break moment. Rohit put his head down after that and started to play a bit more conservatively.
Rohit has always had his great share of admirers in past cricketers. People like Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Ian Chappell rate him highly. Do those expectations put extra pressure on him? "Yeah, sometimes those expectations does play in your mind," Rohit said. "At the end of the day how much runs you score matters. How much ever talented you are at the end of the day you have to score runs."
It's a realisation that wasn't readily apparent in a younger Rohit. At least this clarity of thought wasn't quite there in the past. He himself went on to explain the reason. "Somehow I have not done really so well in the middle order (in the past) but it's part and parcel of being a cricketer. You have seen many good players who have struggled initially and later on matured as a player. I am maturing as a player; I understand the game very well these days. I now know what to do and what not to do as a batsman."
He is aware of what is at stake. "This is very important phase of my career. I have to keep scoring. I am glad I could do the job today when the chips were down."
Rohit has also had his share of brickbats. His critics have pointed at "attitude problems" and how early success got to his head. Rohit said he didn't agree he had an attitude problem but said he is more focussed these days. "There was nothing [wrong] about the attitude. People have their opinions and I am not bothered about it. It's fine. People will talk if you play international cricket. The more people talk more confident I get. My job is not to lose focus, remain calm and you can learn from so many players. There have been many people who have come up from being down. I am young still and have a long way to go. I don't need to lose heart and focus. I just need to keep playing and keep doing the right things."
This Indian batting line-up is sans many of its senior players and Rohit believes that the added responsibility has helped him in some ways. "Yes I think you can say so. Whenever seniors are around it's not that there is not any responsibility. Here, there is Virat, Raina, Yusuf and me who have played a bit of international cricket. The pressure is there in the middle order and we have to bat well."
His goal is simple and straightforward: to play for India as long as possible. "I would try to be consistent and make big scores. When you are doing well, you have to think about going to the next level. Every tour is important. This will be the tour where I can set benchmarks and cement my place and play for India as long as possible."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo