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Rohit: I am not consistent enough

Indian middle order batsman Rohit Sharma in a candid chat with SportsCenter speaks on his World T20 selection and a lot more.

By Dinesh Chopra

Q: Your T20 selection came out of the blue, isn’t it?

A: Yes it was. As a matter of fact I didn’t even know that the team selection was on March 26th. I was so focused on the IPL that it just skipped my mind. Then, on that day I was in the team bus going to the ground when a reporter called and told me that I was there in the World Cup squad. I hope I can help the team repeat what we did in 2007 in South Africa .

Q: But how can someone be so non-chalant about a team selection?

A: Believe me I do not really think that ‘oh, I should be in this team or that team’. If I am a part of a team its fine, if not, its fine. I have realized that earlier I’d worry about these things and put unnecessary pressure but now I deliberately look the other way. Also, I am only 22 and have ample time to make a comeback.

Q: And at this young age how did you feel when Ian Chappell says that you can replace Sachin Tendulkar at number 4 in Tests?

A: In these two years of playing international cricket I have learnt that these things are irrelevant. If you do well people will put you on a pedestal and if you don’t, you are gone (laughs).

Q: With so much talent and promise, why haven’t you been able to cement your place as yet?

A: I think I am not consistent enough. There have been patches where I have been good and at times I have been really bad. Having said that I’d also like to add that I was been constantly shuffled up and down the batting order. One day I was batting at 3,4 or 5 and other days I was batting at 7 or 8 and in between also opening the innings. Batting at 6,7 or 8 is very difficult as you have to come in and straightaway start hitting it all over. If not that, then you have to rotate the strike from the word go. At that spot you can either be a hero or a zero. Look, it is not an excuse because as a cricketer you should be flexible but constant change in roles is tough. But I think now I have understood my game and am better prepared to take up any role offered to me.

Q: So, what do you think is an ideal batting slot for you?

A: It is middle-order as that is where I have played all my cricket.

Q: So while trying to get consistent, have you also stopped playing certain strokes?

A: Yes, I did stop playing that flick and other lofted strokes on the leg-side as my feet were not moving that well. I was focusing more on the off-side for my runs.

Q: In the T20 World Cup your role could be of a finisher. Your Deccan Chargers’ team-mate Andrew Symonds and coach Darren Lehmann have been in that role, did you pick anything from them?

A: I have but majority of my tricks of the trade came from Yuvraj Singh. When I was dropped, Yuvi Paa cited his own example and told me that every cricketer has gone through this phase. He advised me to enjoy this period as it can be mentally draining. He is the real force behind my batting. I don’t think anyone apart from Yuvi Paa can help me in my batting. He told me that the most important thing as a finisher is to read the situation of the match. He said that you have to think like an opposition captain. Also, with batting power-play the match awareness has increased. It is not as slam-bang as it seems from the outside.

Q: And what about Sachin Tendulkar? What did you pick from him?

A: Whenever I have played alongside Sachin paaji he has always emphasized on the body position. He’d always stress that the head should be still. I have noticed in the IPL and even prior to that that whenever he’d hit a big shot his body position and head would be extremely still. And if it is not then you can not middle the ball. This is what I have learnt from Sachin paaji, how to keep my head and body still.

Q: How much is batting at 6 or 7 about power and how much is it about timing?

A: To me it is more about timing. The wickets and cricket bats these days are pretty good, add to that the bowlers try to bowl fast. If you can time the ball well, you get full value for your strokes when the field is up. But when it is spread out then you also look for power for the ball to sail over the boundary line.

Q: How have the injuries affected your batting?

A: Injuries take a lot of toll on your batting, you are not as free flowing. For example, when I had the shoulder injury I could not play the back foot punch but now it is slowly coming back. Similarly, when I hurt my ankle I had problems in running between wickets, especially while turning around. It is 99 per cent fine but psychologically that one per cent still remains and bothers you.

Q: Do you also train for big shots in the nets?

A: In the nets I do practice the swing of my bat. I try to keep it as straight as possible right from the back-lift to the final follow through. Also, towards the end of each practice session I ask bowlers to bowl 25 balls and I try to hit at least 20 for a four or a six. I do not get 20 all the time but around 17-18.

Q: What about those cute strokes – reverse sweep, Dil-scoop etc?

A: I don’t like these strokes, I think they are far too risky for me. I concentrate on playing orthodox strokes and so far most of my runs have come through them. Also, if you look at Sachin Paaji’s batting in the IPL you’d realize he played hardly any of these strokes. He finished the highest run-getter of the tournament with just three sixes! It shows that batting is not about hitting big or being cute.

Q: Rohit, earlier in the domestic season you got a triple ton in a Ranji Trophy game against Gujarat . Do you think that was the turning point of your career?

A: A triple ton is a triple ton but I won’t rate it that high as it came on an easier wicket (at CCI, Mumbai) for batting. I think the hundred that got against Railways in Delhi was the turning point of my career. It came on a wicket where the ball was turning from the Day One itself and Murali Karthik was bowling well. When I came into bat we were some 40 odd for 4 and by the end of the first innings we took lead in the first innings. It was extremely satisfying knock and it came at a right time for me. That innings gave me a confidence of a different kind altogether.

Q: Do you think sometimes a young player like you can be judged on a few IPL knocks rather than a hundred like this on a trying wicket?

A: Yes, it is unfair to equate an IPL performance with that of a domestic season. Ranji Trophy is a four-day affair where the conditions are challenging. I won’t say that IPL is easy either but then 20-20 is not as big a challenge. At times because the entire world is watching you in IPL some performances are given a lot more weight. At the end of the day it is confusing but ask any Indian cricketer he will tell you that his priority will be to do well in domestic season. May be the big difference is how media highlights a Ranji hundred to a 30 or 40 scored in IPL.

Q: Talking about your IPL team Deccan Chargers it was a disastrous last game for the number 3 spot but how did you manage 5 straight wins to reach the semis?

A: Apart from the team and the support staff it was “KEPKAY”. It played a big role in this.

Q: What is KEPKAY?

A: Well, it is difficult to describe but it was an expression which exemplifies the spirit of Chargers. If you’d have noticed all players or coach would say KEPKAY after every interview. It is not an abbreviation, does not have a dictionary meaning or is not English language word. You can say it was the theme for Deccan Chargers. KEPKAY

(Dinesh Chopra works for ESPN’s SPORTSCENTER)
 
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