Veteran sports journalist and author of The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma Story, Vijay Lokapally talks about the prodigious rise of Rohit Sharma, one of the finest batsmen of the contemporary era.
The book, The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma Story, published by Bloomsbury India, is a biography of the gifted cricketer, offering an extensive account of his life and cricketing journey, interspersed with inspirational anecdotes from his coach, Dinesh Lad, as well as teammates. In that way, it can be called a befitting tribute to Rohit Sharma’s skills, demeanour, and impeccable batting style. One wouldn’t find a better biographer than the prolific sportswriter Vijay Lokapally, who has been covering cricket for over three decades including six limited-over World Cups and over 100 Tests and One Day Internationals, to explore the life of this supremely-talented batsman. And in all this, Lokapally is ably assisted by G. Krishnan, the co-author of the book. Excerpts:
Q. How pivotal is the contribution of Rohit Sharma’s first coach Dinesh Lad in his career?
A. The book does justice to Dinesh Lad’s role in shaping Rohit’s career. Dinesh, who worked with the Railways, lived his dream through his son Siddhesh, who plays for Mumbai in domestic cricket, and Chennai Super Kings. For Dinesh what mattered was that he had to spot young talent and groom them. He is a dedicated coach and his contribution to Rohit rising as a batsman is great. Dinesh gets due recognition in the book and shares some delightful anecdotes which the readers would relish.
Q. You have seen how Rohit’s approach towards the game has changed over the years. How do you look at it?
A. It speaks for his temperament and also his approach to the game when saddled with extra responsibility. I have always felt that Rohit, like M.S. Dhoni, loves to perform under pressure. It comes from the fact that he was taught to dominate the attack on the junior circuit itself on the maidans of Mumbai. He looks to dominate at the highest level too, backing himself on all kinds of surfaces. He has become more consistent and learnt to put value to his wicket.
Q. What kind of research went into this book?
A. Krishnan, the co-author of the book, lives in Mumbai and had the privilege of following Rohit’s career closely. Our research was based on material available in various newspapers and magazines but most importantly we relied on our writings and watching Rohit first hand. Over the years, we have covered Rohit’s domestic and international matches and that experience came in handy when highlighting various aspects of Rohit’s cricket.
Q. How have you depicted Rohit Sharma’s IPL journey in the book?
A. Rohit is an acknowledged iconic performer in the IPL and his exploits demanded proper coverage in the book. There is a chapter on his IPL journey with a focus on some of the sterling knocks that he played. We have also highlighted his leadership qualities.
Q. How has your work delved into the difficult period in Rohit Sharma’s career when he could not be a part of ICC World Cup 2011? How he utilised that time?
A. Not playing the 2011 World Cup on home turf will remain one of the biggest disappointments for Rohit. There were many factors, as described in the book, that cost him his place but nothing bigger than his form. He struggled to make runs in the run-up to the World Cup when he failed in all the five innings against the home team in South Africa in January. The failure hurt Rohit and the book describes the tough phase of his life. How he just came up with big scores to ensure he earned a permanent slot in the team. He did work on his game, tightened his defence, and saw to it that the bowlers had to earn his wicket.
Q. What are your views on Rohit Sharma’s contribution to one-day cricket?
A. He has a calming influence on the team. His grace at the crease inspires the partners and his dazzling strokeplay brings a tremendous sense of assurance to the dressing room. His capacity to play the big innings and to accelerate when the situation demands make him the most stylish and reliable batsman.
Q. According to you besides his remarkable batting skills, what are the other contributory factors behind his success?
A. He draws strength from his success with the bat. He also excels in sharing his experience with his teammates, especially the newcomers. He goes out of the way to make them feel comfortable. He also understands he is one of the premier batsmen of world cricket and loses no time in learning lessons to be at his best. He is quick in adapting to the challenges of the playing conditions. What I like the most is the fact that he has so much time to play the ball and that gives him the freedom to execute a wide range of shots. Watching him bat is one of the most enjoyable sights in world cricket today and the Foreword by 2011 World Cup hero Yuvraj Singh is one of the highlights of the book.
Q. Do you believe Rohit Sharma’s hard work, confidence, and perseverance, underlined in your work, will be inspiring for his fans and cricket enthusiasts across the country?
A. Rohit is a role model and an immensely popular figure on social media. He loves to interact with his fans and that makes him a cricketer with a fan following that connects him with cricket lovers of all age groups. It’s a delight to witness how Rohit’s infectious smile endears him to his fans and well-wishers. It has been described in detail in The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma Story, my fourth book with Bloomsbury India. I am sure Indian cricket can do with more cricketers like Rohit. He gives quality time to his fans and is a delight when interacting with the media.
Q. What are the biggest achievements of Rohit’s career that the readers would be inquisitive to know about in-depth in the book?
A. His feats with the bat are well-known. A century on Test debut and his sensational run at the 2019 World Cup when he hit five centuries, three of them in a row, have shown him to be a great entertainer. The book discusses some of his impact-making knocks and I am sure the readers will connect with Rohit and his cricket better after reading The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma Story.