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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

By Anand Subramaniam in
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.