Rohit Sharma, India’s vice-captain, oozed calm and composure when he spoke to the media ahead of India’s match against Australia. Fielding questions that ranged from Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s gloves to who the best batsman in the world was and much between, Rohit played with a straight bat, just as he had against South Africa in India’s tournament opener.
Q. Rohit, firstly, congrats on the hundred. And your record against Australia is very good, but on this ground India has not done very well of late. How do you think of today’s match?
ROHIT SHARMA: Today’s match?
Q. Sorry, tomorrow’s.
ROHIT SHARMA: Yeah, I think in the World Cup, we have seen it, you just have to turn up on that day and play good cricket. What we have done in the past is past, so I think we as a team totally believe that we have to be particularly better on that particular day. Yes, we’ve had good rivalry between the two teams in the last few months that we played good competition between bat and ball. We played really good cricket in Australia, they played really good cricket in India. So it’s going to be a great contest.
We have to be good on that day, and we will try and focus on that particular aspect rather than thinking what sort of record we have on this particular ground. I think it doesn’t matter, we have to quickly assess the conditions because condition is playing a huge part in this World Cup as we have seen. For us, it will be the same. Just turn up and try and have a good day, do your skills, basics right and then things will follow.
Q. We’ve all heard Virat Kohli’s comments on your hundred against South Africa. Where does it rank for you, and how much satisfaction do you take from it given the fact it’s a World Cup opener?
ROHIT SHARMA: Yeah, I think it was a massive confidence booster in terms of heading into the tournament. All the cricketers in this tournament want to start well, and it gives you that momentum going into the tournament. And yes, particularly talking about that particular innings, I felt it was not the way I would like to play. Something unusual for me, but obviously you have to respect the conditions, at times the bowlers, as well, which is probably the reason I would say probably one of the best I would say. Not the best, but yes, probably one of the best, I would rate that knock amongst the best at the top because it was not the easiest of the conditions. Although, yes, we were chasing not such a high amount of score, but still, it was not that easy. Throughout the hundred overs that we played, there was something in for the bowlers. At times you have to go with your natural instinct and try and bat the condition rather than batting your own batting. So that was a bit challenging, but of course that is what the team expects from experienced players.
Q. You just said that it was not the way you would like to play, the way you played in Southampton, but you did play like that, and you made sure you finished the game. In Sydney in January you scored a hundred, you could not finish the game. You were very disappointed that day. This thing is starting to come to you that you take that responsibility on your shoulders, that you get set, you finish it. Is that the vice-captaincy? Is it the natural progression as a batsman for you? What has brought about this change in you, this responsibility, this maturity in you? Are you enjoying your game in that sense?
ROHIT SHARMA: I think I have played more than 200-odd ODIs now. If I don’t do it now, then when? (Laughter).
So, experience teaches you a lot of things, and that is something that has come into my game of late. The past few years, rather, because you start the innings for your team, and you want to make sure that you start the innings and you finish off the innings, as well. That gives you immense pleasure. And when I did that in the first game, the satisfaction you get finishing the job is something else, rather than scoring a hundred and not finishing off the game.
My aim is always to bat as many balls as possible and see where I can take the game. And also the reason I said is because once I cross a certain score, I tend to just take on from there. But it was not the case in that particular game. I had to see the situation, because I knew it was not going to be easy for the new batter to come in and start scoring runs. So my job was just to be there and make sure I held the one end of our batting unit, and then the others came in, chipped in that crucial partnership, as well, which was, again, very, very crucial. The KL partnership off 85 plus or something, and then MS, those were crucial partnerships. So I think this World Cup is all going to be about that. We’ve got to stick to partnership as much as we can and try and seal the game off there.
Q. Can I ask what you made of the decision not to let MS Dhoni wear his gloves? There’s been a big reaction. Have you been surprised by that?
ROHIT SHARMA: I have no idea about it, honestly.
Q. Nothing at all?
ROHIT SHARMA: No, I’m not — see, I’m not the captain. I don’t know what’s going on with that. Probably we’ll see it tomorrow.
Q. Rohit, the West Indies targeted Australia with the short ball early on. The pace bowlers have seemed to have a bit of an impact, in particular Usman Khawaja. How much notice of that have you taken heading into this?
ROHIT SHARMA: Yeah, we saw a bit of that game when these guys were playing. See, short ball for any batsman is not easy, even the best guy who can pull the ball, who can hook the ball will find it difficult. So it’s not easy. We understand that. And probably we have the bowling attack to do that. You know, again, having said that, you don’t want to be carried away with that. We’ve got to understand the conditions and make sure that you keep the batsmen guessing all the time, which is probably our idea to do that. Yes, there will be short stuff bowled, but at the same time, we can’t forget the batsmen, most of the batsmen that get out is from that three-meter length. That is what the basic is. But again, as you mentioned, we will see the condition and we’ll see what the batsman is doing at that particular time. If he’s finding it uncomfortable, of course we will welcome him with that short stuff, but of course those guys play short ball really well. They come from Australia where the bounce is nice and high. So yeah, I mean, we’ll see how it goes on that particular day and see if that is going to work for us or not.
Q. Heading into the World Cup, possibly there was a bit of a concern of the No. 4 position. Here the batsmen started simply before getting caught at mid off. How does the team deal with that? Does the team tell him? As a team, do you back the batsman, that — how to go about it? He got out at mid off. What was that about? What do you say about the No. 4 batsman getting caught at mid off. Probably not the best way to get out. As a team how do you deal with that?
ROHIT SHARMA: See, I mean, he was very much in the line to play that ball. It just stuck in the pitch as we’ve seen through the innings it was doing. Because he was batting on 26, played about 40-odd balls, so he thought he was in, so obviously after you play a certain number of balls, you want to try and put the pressure on the bowler at some time, otherwise you can’t score runs. You can’t just let bowlers keep bowling their length and line. I’m sure he was trying to just push it between miles an hour off and powers to try to find that gap, but unfortunately the ball got stuck in the pitch. It didn’t come on as he must have expected. But he looked very good from whatever 40 balls, 42, 43 balls he played. He looked very good, very compact, didn’t panic at any given situation, because it was a crucial partnership. That 80 plus partnership that we got, it was crucial at that point, having lost two early wickets.
So yes, he might not seem that he didn’t get a big runs, but that 26 was as good as getting a 50-plus runs on that pitch because like I said, it wasn’t easy. But he looked good, and he looks confident from his approach, whatever you see of him, how he goes about his training, from whatever chats we’ve had with him. He feels very confident in his game, and he knows exactly what needs to be done in this particular condition and at that No. 4 position because more often than not he will be coming to bat at No. 4 where the ball will be doing slightly, and being an opener, it’s a good advantage for him to get used to that condition quickly, and he’s got a technique, as well, to bat there.
You know, I believe it’s going to be a good tournament for him.
Q. Aaron Finch was in here just now, and he said that Steve Smith he thinks is the best player in the world, the best batsman in the world across all three formats. You’ve got a pretty good batter across all three formats in your team. Do you agree with Aaron on that?
ROHIT SHARMA: This is a debate we will continue as long as these guys are playing. It’s for you guys to judge who’s the best, who’s not. It’s not for me to judge. So yeah.