White-ball specialist? By no means, says Rohit

On the sidelines of CEAT Awards, Rohit Sharma gave a glimpse of his maturity while opening up about being omitted from the Test squad yet again.

Rohit Sharma: It’s best to enjoy yourself in what you do and give your best. That's what I am trying to do."   -  Getty Images

Rohit Sharma has been an international cricketer for over a decade now. But when it comes to Test cricket, the Mumbai batsman has not managed to seal a place in India’s starting XI. Over the last fortnight, not only has Sharma been disappointed with his IPL team’s failure to progress to Playoffs and defend its crown but also found himself out of India’s Test squad for the one-off game against Afghanistan.

On the sidelines of CEAT Awards, Sharma gave a glimpse of his maturity while opening up about being omitted from the Test squad yet again.

Excerpts...

Mixed IPL for the Mumbai Indians and you as a team. How would you sum it up?

See, a disappointing campaign without a doubt. I said many a times during the season that this team was much much better than what we did through the season. I think we had a much better squad than most of the other teams who went on to qualify also. But again, we have ourselves to blame for it. We made too many mistakes. No one put their hand up when it was needed the most. It was coming in few games but it was not happening consistently. If you are not going to be consistent in this tournament, it's going to be tough to qualify.

I thought we were a little inconsistent in whatever we did as a team. Few of these we thought would put their hand up when needed, including myself. That didn't happen, so that was disappointing. And personally for me, it was not a great season. I expected a lot from the standards I have set for myself and the kind of performance I have had lately. I gave myself full chance to go out there and do what I could. I started off well with a few innings and then towards the end when it was needed the most, it didn't happen, so that was disappointing. But again, these things can happen and all you can do is to learn from it and be better at when you are thrown into that situation again. It was a mixed season for us throughout. We lacked consistency and it hurt us.

In a tournament like the IPL where games come thick and fast, how difficult is it to turn it around for a batsman?

Any format you play, there will be times when you will not be performing but you have to stay in the right zone and get the right balance. You can't get too excited or demotivated and put yourself down. That is the key. You should stay in the zone and give yourself the best chance to perform. I think I have learnt that over the years. This was my 11th IPL. Each IPL, I have learnt that you cannot get too excited with the team's or your own performance, which helps you to get the best out of yourself.

Any particular area of concern in batting for you during the IPL?

Shot selection, may be, at the time of getting out. But again, shot selection is something that will be talked about when the results are not going your way. But those shots when I play in the first over of the match and it goes out of the stadium, it gets you that momentum the team is looking for. Even when I am batting in the middle order, the sudden shift in momentum helps the team. Even in the IPL final, that over by Sandeep Sharma changed the game because Watson took his chances and it came off. You have to back yourself to do that. I backed myself but it didn't come off. I don't watch to look too much into it because when it comes off, you win games; when it doesn't, you lose. I have been in that situation too often.

Do you think your decision not to open during the IPL backfired?

I don’t agree with it because all the three seasons we won, I batted at No. 3 or 4. When I opened the innings for the full season in 2016, we didn't qualify. This year we didn't qualify (when I batted) at No. 4, so I have an excuse to say “we didn't qualify, let me open next year”. I have thinking to do there but as captain, I have to give the team the best chance to win the game and I have to utilise all the players in some or the other way. I was trying to do that.

How are you dealing with Test exclusion?

You’ll keep hearing this from every cricketer that their job is to go out and play and enjoy the cricket. For me, I am not at a stage to worry about whether I’ll be picked or not. I need to enjoy my game. The first five-six years of my career, it was all about “oh, will I be picked? Will I play”! Now it's all about enjoying the game. How much can you think about those things because it keeps adding pressure on you. Instead, it’s best to enjoy yourself in what you do and give your best. That's what I am trying to do.

How did you realise that you had to get over it?

It came through experience. I got into the national team when I was 20 and I made my Test debut when I was 26. The first six years, I was only worried about that. I had an opportunity to make my debut in 2010 but I missed that (due to an injury). After that, it made me realise that the more you want, your attitude changes...  After a point, I realised there's no point thinking about it. I could only control to make the best use of the opportunity presented to me. No point in thinking about what the selectors are doing and all. There's limited time you have as a player and I have finished almost half of it. There's no point in spending the remaining half thinking whether I'll be picked or not. I am going forward with the theory of 'whatever time I have make it count'.

Are you ready to be billed as a white-ball specialist?

By no means! As a child, all I dreamt of was to play Test cricket and that dream will never be over because XYZ doesn't feel that way. Nobody can take away my game or what I think about the game. Selectors can do what is best in their control, players can do what is in their control but for us, it's important to keep focus. When I started playing cricket, there was no white-ball cricket. We used to play in school, in age-group cricket with the red ball. White-ball cricket came much later. As a child, you only saw red-ball cricket and how important it was. It still has been the same and will never change till I stop playing cricket.

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