India's batter Rohit Sharma plays a shot during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and Netherlands, at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. (PTI Photo/Shahbaz Khan)
MUMBAI: Being captain of the Indian cricket team is not easy. Carrying hopes of a billion-plus can be burdensome and often break you down. Rohit Sharma has shouldered the responsibility with some spunk. He is ready for more on Wednesday at the Wankhede.
Leading the hosts into the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, Rohit admits pressure is always around and that his teammates play with it all along. "From the first game to the last game there is always pressure but we have handled that very well in the last nine games. The boys came up with a good response as we were only focused on our game. We wanted to play good cricket and did just that," he said on match eve.
Then, he upped the ante: "In the future also, we will focus on playing good cricket. Because in India, you hear the same voice from everywhere that we have to win the match tomorrow, we have to score 100 runs, we have to take 5 wickets… I think in terms of pressure, it becomes mandatory for Indian cricketers."
Explaining it further, Rohit said most of the players don’t peep much into the past. "Half of the guys were not even born when we won our first World Cup (in 1983). When we won our second (in 2011), half of them were not even playing the game. The current crop are focussed on the present -- what is happening today, what can happen tomorrow. The focus is on how they can get better as players, what they can bring to the team and the things they need to improve upon. That, I believe, is a very, very good thing. Going into a tournament like this, from game number one, the focus has always been on what we can achieve today. That’s the beauty of this team," he added.
Does big match eve lead to sleepless nights for the captain? "No," Rohit replied. "That’s why I don’t live alone -- I have my family with me. So, my mind goes here and there, which is a very good thing. When I go to my hotel room, we completely stay away from cricket and discuss a lot of other things," he added.
Rohit said winning nine games on the trot in the league stage was quite something. "Nine games is a lot, literally two or three bilateral series," he quipped.
"You have to break it down into different games, venues, strategies and opposition as well. I think we chased the first five games and then the next four games we batted first. So, I think we covered the areas that we wanted to. But again, we do understand the importance of this week, but for us I don’t think we need to do anything different from what we’ve been doing in this tournament," he added.
Rohit also praised the New Zealand team, terming them "the most disciplined" who "play their cricket very smartly."
He also lauded left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav for his grit. "He missed out on a few games in between, but since he’s made a comeback, you see a different sort of Kuldeep in terms of his attitude… wants to front the challenge and take up responsibility. With him, it doesn’t matter that he goes for runs, he knows his job is to go out there and get the team into good situations, try for breakthroughs. Like we always say, the game is not over till the last ball is bowled," Rohit said.