World Cup 2023: The focus is always on present, says Rohit Sharma
Mumbai: India captain Rohit Sharma doesn’t look at history, particularly because of the young squad he is leading, more than half of them were not part of the heartbreaking defeat that New Zealand bestowed on Team India in the 2019 semi-final at Manchester. “We look at what we have to do today and how we can build on that in the future,” Sharma said at his pre-match press conference a day before he meets the Kiwis to make a statement of excellence and, hopefully, carve a path to the Motera Final.
“Look, that's the beauty of this team. Half of the guys were not even born when we won our first World Cup. And then when we won our second World Cup in 2011, half of the guys were not even playing the game. For this current crop of players, they're very much into what is happening today, what can happen tomorrow. Those are the things they try and focus on."
“I don't see them talking about how we won the last World Cup, how we won our first World Cup. The focus is on how they can get better as a player, what they can bring to the team and what are the things they need to improve. So that's the beauty of the crop of players we have."
“The focus is always on the present. And 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. What you achieve today sets you up for what you can achieve tomorrow. So, I think the crop of players that we have is very much focused on that process,” he said.
Asked if the squad he is leading a unit that has performed brilliantly is the most balanced and dominant Indian team he has been a part of, he said, “We won the World Cup in 2011 and I was not part of that team. More than half the guys, who are playing were not even born when India won the World Cup for the first time in 1983. Some of them were not even playing the game in 2011. So, I would say most teams I have been part of have been dominant in their ways,” he added.
Sharma is a captain, who backs his players to the hilt and appreciates spinners, who play with a big heart and are not afraid to go for some runs. Speaking about Kuldeep Yadav, who was pressured by the Kiwi batters at Dharamsala in his first spell, but came back strongly in his second spell, he said
“it is great that he has no fear because if a spinner has fear of being hit, it will not go well for the team strategy. Kuldeep has done a brilliant job of the task assigned to him and we are very happy with his performance,” he said.
The balance, the all-round performance and the winnability factor on which Team India has come into the semifinal unbeaten in nine league matches is because of the clear-cut roles assigned to each and every player by the captain and the coach. “I was not the captain in 2019 so was not in direct touch with the talks around this. But, roles were assigned then, too, and even now. We had to change our combination a bit as Hardik got injured, but the roles assigned to every player have not changed and they have worked and performed on those roles,” he said.
As a skipper, he has no time to delve into his own journey, which has been difficult, but interesting and he treasures the small moments he can get in this campaign to not think about cricket. “Let there be some moments to think about other things, cricket is always on the back of my mind but really, I have had no time to think about my journey. Maybe I will reflect on it after November 19 and be brave tomorrow. Hopefully, as the fortune favours the brave and it will do so tomorrow, too,” he said with a smile.
Talking about the New Zealand team’s good points he said “they are a very disciplined and consistent team.” A good brand of cricket on that day, “and a little bit of luck” will hopefully take him and his team to Ahmedabad, he hoped.
He added, that he has played enough games at the Wankhede and did not want to talk of his home ground at length. “What I can say is that the toss is not the deciding factor.” A good show in the middle with all players performing their task to their best is.
Pressure has a permanent seat in the Indian dressing room, and Sharma said, as Indian players learn to live with it and perform despite it.
“In India, if you are an Indian cricketer, then whatever the format, whatever the tournament, there is always pressure. Because 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. So, all these guys, whether they have played 200-250 matches or 5 or 10 matches, they have to go through all this. In terms of pressure, it becomes mandatory for Indian cricketers. There is pressure, but we have tried so hard in all these years to keep that aside and focus more on our game, strategy, and the way we play. what happens from outside will always continue and will not stop. We need to focus on the game and focus on the challenges that will come from the opposition," he concluded.