bcci.tv offered in: हिंदी Switch

Rohit and his white shirt aspirations

Enjoying the game, taking things as they come and relishing the given opportunities – Rohit Sharma looks to excel in the long format

That Rohit Sharma is a white ball marauder is a given and he has two centuries and seven half-centuries while batting against the red cherry. But time and again, there have been doubts raised over his form in the whites. Yes, he has got his fair share of chances but at the same time missed out on key Test series owing to injuries. It is something that Rohit is not bothered about, something that he says is not in his control but at the end of the day, it is that feeling of playing in whites that gives him immense joy, he asserts.

The last time he played a Test match was back in October 2016 in the Test series against New Zealand and later sustained an injury on his upper thigh in the ODIs that got him ruled out for six to eight weeks missing out on a majority of India’s home season in the bargain. After spending time at the National Cricket Academy as he was on the road to full recovery, Rohit came back in the IPL and later in the Champions Trophy with fitness and form in his kitty. Now, as he gears up for the challenge against Sri Lanka in the forthcoming three-match Test series, Rohit spoke about his excitement to get back in full flow.

Just a couple of days of practice and more to come ahead of the first Test. How have the preparations been thus far?

It is always good to get some game-time before the Test match actually starts. It is important that you make the best use of the days you get. It’s a different feeling when you are in the middle trying to spend some time, whether it is on the field the bat or even fielding. I felt good. Although the time was little, considering the amount of players we have, we have to give everyone an opportunity in the middle. It was a productive day for everyone. Everyone made good use of these last few days that we’ve got. Everyone is looking forward to it, as always it’s going to be an exciting Test series.

You are someone who doesn’t set goals ahead of the series. But have you tried to set some considering this is going to be a Test series you will be playing after almost a year?

I would like to stick to my strengths and the way I have been preparing over the years for Test matches or ODI cricket. I guess setting goals and thinking about benchmarks will only add pressure to your performance when you are out in the middle. You always know in the back of your mind that you have to score runs, as simple as that. I don’t want to take different sorts of pressures about wanting to score runs. I’d rather just go out in the middle and try and enjoy the game because all the opportunities you get, you try and make the most of it and enjoy it.

That actually brings the best performance out. I have been trying the same over the years and it is not going to change. I know in the back of my mind what I need to do as an individual. But yes, having said that, I am here to enjoy my opportunity, enjoy my time with the boys. It is always a great feeling getting back to the whites. It has been a long time, the last Test match I played was in October and it’s almost been a year. I am very excited to wear the whites and see what’s in store for me.

You have had your spate of injuries, untimely ones at that, especially when you were going well scoring three fifties against New Zealand in successive Tests. Obviously, it must be disappointing to miss out on the bulk of the home Tests when you were going well?

It was disappointing, to be honest. But certain things you cannot control. But yes, I am glad that I could contribute in that Test series win against New Zealand. But then after that, it was a disappointing injury, I had to miss a lot of Test matches. But again, every sportsman goes through that period of missing out on games through injuries and I kept myself motivated throughout those six months.

Yes, I was desperate to get back but at the same time, it was important for me not to forget the process where I needed to do a lot of hard work to get back on to the field. I went through a big surgery and a lot of work had to be done to get my strength back and to get my match-fitness back. Mentally, to just prepare yourself, it takes a lot. I guess all those six months I spent outside the field taught me a lot of things. I have my fingers crossed and I hope that I don’t get injured anymore.

What did you learn during that injury layoff?

Pretty simple. Anything can happen anytime, so it is important that you enjoy and not think too much about the game, try not to take too much pressure on yourself. I think it is important that whatever time you have, try and make the most of it, and enjoy. Because this is what you dreamt of; representing your country, and now that you have that opportunity, make the most of it, enjoy the time on the field. These freak injuries can happen anytime and you may miss out probably for a month, or maybe six months, seven or eight months, who knows. It’s important that you try and have fun.

There is a lot of competition for that spot in the middle-order. How do you deal with that?

It’s very simple, the fight for that spot will always be there whichever format you play, and it’s good for the cricket and good for your team when you have that healthy competition around. It makes everyone step up to the challenge all the time, whenever they step on to the field. I rather not think too much about whether I will be playing or not or which number I will bat. Thinking too much about such things doesn’t work for me. Whatever is in my control, I try and think about those things and it works for me. I try and always stick to my strengths, things that I have been doing over the years and that has helped me be wherever I am today.

How important is it to be recognised as a successful Test cricketer?

It is important but again, having said that, I try and not look into all those things because those are personal accolades and for me, it is important that whenever I get an opportunity, I try and make the most of it and contribute. At the end of the day, I want to be a big match-winner for the team, that’s all I am looking forward to and that’s all there is on my mind every time I step on to the field. I try not to complicate things. I keep it very simple. Yes, I want to be a successful cricketer but at the same time, for me, what is most important is how much games and how many matches I have won for the team.

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

CommentsBack to article

KL Rahul’s story of fight within and beyond

The opener, coming off an injury layoff, spoke about his agonizing rehab process and the demons he had to fight to get back on the field

It’s not even early afternoon on the fourth day of the final Test between India and Australia in Dharamsala. KL Rahul is in ominous form and wants to finish off things in a jiffy – he does, as he guides the ball for two towards mid wicket. There is a run of emotions; Rahul gloats with joy, there is a pump in the air and he looks at the dressing room as his mates applaud his efforts. Six fifties in seven innings and the celebration was a testimony to what hitting the winning runs meant for him.

Rahul though, would miss the next three months of cricket owing to a shoulder injury. He would spend countless hours at the National Cricket Academy on his rehabilitation process. The IPL, ICC Champions Trophy and the tour to West Indies would be given a miss watching them all on TV. Cut to July and Rahul is back in the mix, back to full fitness and back most importantly with a bat in his hand, which he agrees, gives him utmost joy. He had his first long stint at the nets as India began preparations for the Sri Lanka tour with a practice game against the Board President’s XI here in Colombo.

The opener spent a lot of time hitting balls, leaving deliveries, getting his feet movement right and later scoring a confident half century that had seven boundaries to his name on Day 1 of the warm-up game. Here’s a rejuvenated Rahul throwing light on the painful months off cricket, his rehab process and the joy of getting back in whites.

Excerpts from the interview

How does it feel to be back to the ground and hit the nets three months later owing to an injury layoff?

I haven’t been more happier ever in my life. It has been quite a tough time to be away from cricket, to be away from the thing that you love the most. To just sit at home and watch the boys playing, it was really hard for me. It did make me a lot stronger, made me value my life, my opportunities and here I am, back in.

It feels good to be back holding the bat and hitting the ball to the boundary. It was a good day today for the boys and I had a good hit out in the middle. And it has been a while since I have been in the middle. So yes, every opportunity that I get in the middle before the Test series starts will be valuable for me. I tried to make the most of it and I am very happy.

Take us through the times at the National Cricket Academy and your rehabilitation process.

Watching the Champions Trophy and the loss in the final was heart-breaking but the way the boys played the whole tournament was really exciting. I was missing being part of the team. So, rehab basically for me is possibly the most boring thing you can ever do, most honestly. Just wake up every morning and to do the same boring thing again and again is quite tiring and it starts to get to you. You start questioning yourself, asking yourself if you really want to do all these boring things. You chose a sport that is exciting and challenges you every day and here you are, waking up and doing boring things.

That was the biggest challenge for me but I woke up and there was something that pushed me to go to the gym, go to the physio, go through the painful process, needling and then pushing my shoulder. It was quite tough but it is part of a sportsman’s life and part of our career. It’s good that things like this happened to me early and I am hoping for an injury-free career going forward. The surgeon and the physio were really happy that I could come back in three months. They were expecting me to come back a lot later but I did pay a lot of attention to my rehab. I was very disciplined and very eager to get back to the team as soon as I could. I didn’t want to miss out on any more matches.

You have had injuries in the past but this was kind of a first when it came to an injury with a major surgery. Did you doubt yourself and have any doubts when you got back to the nets?

Yes, I am still very nervous. The body is still very unsure and it keeps holding me back every time. That’s the biggest challenge coming back from injury. You know that you are physically fit and you have done everything that you can, worked really hard, you are feeling stronger, you are feeling fitter. But the mind always tells you what if it happens again, what if you have to go through the same grind for three months, what if your shoulder is not ready, what if you come back early?

There are a lot of questions, a lot of doubts and that’s the biggest challenge and fight for me. But so far, I have been doing well. I have been enjoying each day and I have been a person who takes it as it comes. If it happens again, it happens again. It’s not in my control, I have done everything I can to get back. I tried to get my shoulder stronger, my body stronger.

Once I put my helmet on, I forget all of these things. You see the ball, you see the ball pitched up to you and it has to be driven, you will drive. Your body is used to that for 15 years. Injured or not injured, your body just reacts. The fear is obviously there but I will fight it and I will overcome that.

A good long stint at the nets and some quality time in the middle in the warm-up game. What did you make of it?

it was really good, it wasn’t bad. I was middling the ball from ball one, hit a few boundaries from the middle of the bat, rotated the strike and not a lot of balls beat my bat. A few balls beat my bat which is obvious, which happens if you are coming back after a long time. Playing in the nets is an entirely different thing and going out there in the middle is a completely different challenge. It was good for me.

I will take back a lot of positives. Like I said, I am so happy right now just to be back that if I had not gotten runs, I would have still been happy that I am back in the team, back to what I want to do. I am just really happy and grateful for being back on the field.

Did you work on any specifics in the nets?

Honestly, I have had only like three net sessions before I have come here, so I haven’t had a lot of practice or skill-time. I am just coming with a fresh mind and we do have 3-4 days before the Test match starts, so I will make the most of it. I played a practice match in Bangalore before I came here and had a few net sessions before I travelled with the team. That has given me a little bit of confidence and like I said, it is mostly me fighting my doubts and fears in my head more than anything else.

You had a mixed tour last time when you toured Sri Lanka. What have you learned from your previous outing?

As far as I remember, all the Test matches were very competitive. The pitches here are very helpful for whoever does well. Fast bowlers have something (for them) in the wicket, the ball will spin and bounce a little bit, but if you apply yourself, you will get a lot of runs. I did get one hundred and I will think of all the positives. The injury has taught me to be a lot more positive, just keep the negatives away.

What I learnt from the last tour was, I left a few balls and got bowled. I went back and worked a lot on my batting. I decided to play a lot more closer to the body and the Kookaburra ball does a little bit for the first 20-25 overs and then you can play your shots and get a lot of runs. So, the first 20-25 overs will be the biggest challenge and if I can fight through that as an opening batsman, then there are a lot of runs to be made.

Eager as ever and ready to hit the ground running?

I am very very excited and happy to be back. I am a little bit nervous too because I am coming back after a long time. I just want to go out there, enjoy myself, take every opportunity and every day as it comes, try to do my best and that’s what my mantra has been all the time. I will play fearless cricket and see what the team requires of me and how I can do it to my best.

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

CommentsBack to article