‘Rohit should be given more opportunities in Tests. He is good enough to perform well in the longer format.’
Of the many positives for India from this World Cup, the foremost, arguably, were the performances of Rohit Sharma. 648 runs, five centuries and an average of 81 would usually be enough to tell you the story of a player’s tournament. But not for Sharma.
To describe his batting through just numbers would do him a disservice. For here was a man at the peak of his abilities, in utter control in the middle, driving, pulling, cutting – all the while making it look laughably easy.
But it hasn’t always been so rosy for Sharma. The first six years of his career were, to say the least, difficult, marked by false starts and a perennial struggle to break out of the cocoon of the “talented” tag.
In an interview with The Sunday Guardian, his childhood coach, Dinesh Lad, talks about Sharma’s setbacks and how selectors and M.S. Dhoni backed him during his struggling days.
Q. Rohit Sharma looks invincible on the pitch these days when he is batting. The way he has gone about in his batting approach has changed his game, especially in the last five years. So, what changed?
A. He has changed a lot in terms of maturity and responsibility. He is a lot more mature now especially after he was elected as the vice-captain of the Indian team. In a few games, he was also promoted as the captain. His game evolved after he was selected as the skipper of Mumbai Indians. Rohit started understanding the game much more and that helped him as a player.
Q. Do you see any loopholes in his batting? Is there anything in his style and technique that requires attention?
A. I don’t think he needs advice on technical issues. He is technically very sound at the moment. The only advice I gave him was to stay on the wicket for at least 10-12 overs. If he spends a good amount of time on the wicket and is set, it becomes extremely difficult to get him out. You will see he doesn’t throw his wicket. The bowler has to get him out.
We all have noticed that when he is set, he usually scores a century…and you can see the change now. He has scored multiple centuries and double centuries after 2011. He is the most dangerous batsman in the world after he has scored a century.
Q. If his recent performances are anything to go by, would you rate him on par with Virat Kohli?
A. They have different technique and style of batting. I think both of them are equally effective in terms of influence they have on the game.
Q. What is it that makes him the best puller and hooker of the ball in India especially when Indians are known to have difficulties against the short deliveries?
A. He has practiced pulls and hooks a lot. I encouraged him when I noticed his quality as a batsman. We practiced on cement wickets. I bowled at him from 16-yards and hit the deck hard. He would always play those deliveries on front foot. So, he is quite used to it. Having said that, I must say Rohit always had the talent to play such deliveries. People say that he has got that extra second when he is approaching for a delivery and I think he is a gifted batsman.
Q. Do you think 2011 World Cup snub was the reason that he came out with such stellar performances later on in his career?
A. When he debuted for India in 2007, he did well till 2009. However, he didn’t score centuries during that time but came out good with decent scores of 60s and 70s. Then IPL came and money started flowing which created diversion for him. He was not giving enough time to his game. His performance went down during 2009-2011 but selectors were backing him a lot and he also had a good support of M.S. Dhoni. But unfortunately, he was distracted and that’s the reason why he could not perform.
Q. Tell us how a cricketer gets distracted?
A. It happens. He was young…just 22, 23-years-old. This kind of diversion happens to players. They start thinking they are big players and he had to face the consequences after getting dropped from 2011 World Cup squad. I told him whatever he is today is because of cricket and he needs to give more time to his game. He started focusing on his cricket and kept practicing.
He has always considered Sachin as his idol. He always used to inquire about how Sachin approached his game and I gave him the assurance that he has got similar abilities. All he needed to do was practice. 2011 World Cup snub was a huge shock to all of us. He has scored plenty of runs since then and now he is the best batsman around.
Q. What, according to you, has been the reason behind him not getting selected in the Test team?
A. He has not played enough Ranji games. One-day and four-day matches are very different. There is a difference between how red balls behave and what white ball does. You have to create shots while handling red balls. So, he hasn’t played enough. I think he should be given more opportunities in Tests. He is good enough to perform well in the longer format.
Q. After India lost the semi-final against New Zealand, some critics suggested that Rohit Sharma should replace Virat Kohli as Indian captain. What’s your take?
A. Virat Kohli has won so many matches for India. It’s a team game. Everybody is accountable. Yes, Rohit can become a good captain too. He has won championships for Mumbai Indians. India have won a tournament (Asia Cup) under his captaincy. But that doesn’t mean Virat is any less and he should be removed as a captain. He has the same quality as a captain.