Rohit Sharma s impressive captaincy for Mumbai Indians in IPL and CLT20 bodes well for India

Rohit Sharma (left) with the Champions League Twenty20 2013 trophy after beating Rajasthan Royals by 33 runs at the Feroz Shah Kotla © IANS

After captaining Mumbai Indians to a win in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013 and the Champions League Twenty 20 (CLT20) 2013, Rohit Sharma makes his ambitions clear. Derek Abraham talks Rohit about his aspirations, how it feels to lead Mumbai Indians and many other things.

Derek Abraham (DA): Congratulations on your IPL-CLT20 ‘double’. MS Dhoni is the only other captain to have done so…

Rohit Sharma (RS): Yes, it’s a very big achievement. These are very competitive tournaments. I would like to thank the Mumbai Indians management for having faith in me and my leadership abilities. Secondly, I must thank the support staff and my teammates for allowing me to take charge. All of us have worked very hard to achieve this level of success.

DA: You never seem overawed by the presence of legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh on the field, and the likes of John Wright, Anil Kumble and Jonty Rhodes off it. Is it because you are the man in charge?

RS: I have always been given a lot of freedom in doing my job. All these legends have played a vital role in our success. Look, Mumbai Indians is a huge franchise. The expectations are huge. We play to win the trophy.

DA: People are saying Mumbai Indians are the best T20 team in the world. But the fact is that you have played and won only in India. Do you think your team must excel in foreign conditions to stake a claim for the top spot?

RS: Yes, I completely agree with that notion. It’s important that we get an opportunity to play overseas. That will be a real test for us.

DA: The Chennai Super Kings won the 2010 CLT20 in South Africa…

RS: But we play where we are asked to. We are not the ones who decide on where the tournament is played. But if we get a chance to play outside (India), we will prove our worth.

DA: Tendulkar just played his last match for MI. Will we see him take up some other role with the franchise?

RS: He has just called time on his Twenty20 career. It ended on a high with us winning the tournament. He is enjoying the moment. All of us are. But here I am, in Rajkot, to represent India against Australia. I am sure he will associated with MI in some way or the other.

DA: Did he give a farewell speech?

RS: There was a party at Antilla (Mukesh Ambani’s home) on Monday. We had a great time. Sachin paaji, we all know, is a man of few words. He thanked us for our support.

DA: Recently, you were quoted as saying that you are OK with the idea of opening the batting in all three formats…

RS: No, I was misquoted. I said I am ready to bat wherever the team wants me to. I am not the one who decides where I bat. It depends on the team’s requirements, conditions and composition. There are certain type of players who adapt to certain batting positions.

DA: But MS Dhoni showed a lot of faith in you by asking you to open in ODI cricket. And you did extremely well in England, West Indies and Zimbabwe. You seem to be enjoying the responsibility. Personally, where would you want to bat in Tests?

RS: Look, I am ready to bat wherever the team wants me to. But given a choice, I would want to bat in the middle order because that’s where I have batted for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.

DA: Moving up the order in ODIs is one thing. But doing the same in the longer format can be quite challenging…

RS: I don’t know, actually. I was asked to open the batting in ODIs after I did it in T20 Internationals. But I don’t know about Test cricket. I have faced the white ball as an opener, but never the red ball. But I am confident about my abilities and my technique. It’s just that I have never done it.

DA: Of late, your confidence with the bat is sky-high. The moment you know the ball is in your hitting zone, you go for it. Do you think you have consistent than ever before?

RS: Yes, I’ve been hitting the ball very well over the last six months.

DA: How have you done that?

RS: It’s all about confidence. The responsibility of captaincy has made me confident. I just want to continue playing like this. I want to cash in on this form.

DA: Imagine you’ve had a great day with the bat but your team loses by five runs. Or, say, you failed with the bat but the team won by eight wickets. What would you prefer?

RS: You feel happy only if your team wins. You may have scored a hundred but if your team loses, your knock is a waste. It’s about contributions. You may have scored a five-ball 10 in your team’s victory. You are playing to win the game. I don’t believe in records.

DA: The pressure of captaincy has made you a better batsman. Do you agree?

RS: There are people who tend to perform better when under pressure. Some others crumble when they are given responsibility. That’s fair enough. That’s their nature. But I have loved every bit of the responsibility. And I hope to take up more responsibility in future. It will only make me better as a batsman.

DA: Do you believe your success as MI captain will earn you more respect in the Indian dressing room? Also, do you think the selectors could be looking at you as a future India skipper?

RS: I am not thinking of any of this. I am just thinking of the upcoming series against Australia. I don’t think so far ahead. It’s very important to stay in the present. Yes, I am happy I have won a couple of trophies with Mumbai Indians. But that’s that.

DA: But somewhere at the back of your mind, you must be thinking of your Test debut?

RS: Yes, that’s a fact. I want to wear the white flannels for India. I am desperate to play Test cricket now. I’ve waited for so long. I hope I will get my chance soon.

DA: Are you sure you have made no technical changes to your game?

RS: It’s just about the confidence. I have not made any changes to my game. For instance, my knock against the Perth Scorchers (51 not out off 24 balls; MI were required to chase 150 at over 10 an over to qualify for the semis). If you play an innings like that, you take a lot of confidence into the next game. You just go from strength to strength. But that’s done. I need to start afresh. I need to focus on the Australia series now.

DA: So you are back with your good buddy Shikhar Dhawan. How is it to bat with him?

RS: I love batting with him. I am looking forward to doing all that we did in the Champions Trophy, the West Indies and Zimbabwe. We will try and give the team those crucial starts against Australia.

(The writer is Principal Correspondent at DNA, where the above article first appeared)