Thursday, November 2, 2023 promises to be a significant date in Rohit Sharma‘s career. The India captain will lead the Men in Blue for the first time in a World Cup match at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, the iconic venue where not only has Rohit grown up playing most of his cricket but also a ground with no shortage of history. It was at this very stadium 12 years ago that India defeated Sri Lanka in the final to win the 2011 World Cup, a squad which Rohit missed being part of. Fast forward to today and under Rohit, India are just one win away from sealing a semi-final berth at the 2023 World Cup, and if they are able to get another win past Sri Lanka – their seventh consecutive victory in the tournament – it will mark another giant step in Rohit’s little redemption story.
But as flawless as India have been in this World Cup, one bad game can end the dream of 1.5 billion people. India have been the most consistent team in ICC tournaments, but haven’t won an ICC silverware in 10 years. They ended their five-year-long wait for a multi-nation tournament win last month by winning the Asia Cup but the big one still eludes them. Rohit’s captaincy has been welcomed and ridiculed at the same time. When India failed to reach the final of last year’s Asia Cup despite being the favourites or were knocked out by England in the semifinal of the 2022 T20 World Cup, fingers were pointed at Rohit, who due to unforeseen circumstances, was without key players such as Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja due to injuries. But now that they are back and operating at full tilt, there is no excuse, and Rohit knows it.
“It’s not my thought process (that India is enjoying a dream run), it’s the team’s thought process that the guys comply with. When things look good, everything looks good, everything works well. I know how this whole thing works. I’m quite aware of one game here and there, I know suddenly I’ll be a bad captain. I know how it works. I try and do what is necessary from the team’s perspective and be sure of that,” the India captain said ahead of the World Cup match against Sri Lanka.
India have not put a foot wrong in the World Cup. Irrespective of whether they are bowling or batting first, the outcome is the same: A win. But there’s an element called the Law of Averages, which is extremely nasty and generally strikes teams at least once in a big tournament. Every team has experienced it thus far, barring India, but given the red-hot form they are in, perhaps even LOA is afraid of coming in between their victory march towards the cup. With three group matches to go – against Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Netherlands – whether India will reach the semifinal undefeated, Rohit can’t say for sure, but what he can guarantee is that the team will approach the remaining games with the same positive intent as they have in the previous six.
‘Our goal is not to stay unbeaten but to play well in every game’: Rohit
“No, we are not thinking of going that far, honestly. We just want to win every match. I have said this so many times, that for us, every match that we play is important. How we do well in that, what things we didn’t do in the last match, how we can do in this match. Our focus is on that. And after that, we move our vehicle forward. It won’t be right for us to think about the future, that we have to go unbeaten and stay unbeaten. I don’t think that is the goal. The goal is to play every game and play it well,” Rohit added.
Rohit understands that the public wouldn’t settle for anything less than the team going the distance. So far, Team India has lived up to all their expectations – be it scoring centuries, or picking five-wicket-hauls – but the players aren’t getting carried away with the hullabaloo surrounding them and the World Cup.
“I’m sure all 15 of us (in the squad) when you travel in India, whether you’re playing matches or not, there are people at the airport, in the flight next to you, or anywhere you are travelling, they will talk about your game. ‘We want a hundred. We want to see you taking five wickets. We want to see you winning games, tournaments, series’ and all of that,” he said.
“I am sure all these things have been in the players’ ears since the beginning. I don’t think it’s pressure, but it’s nice that people are expecting a lot of things from us. And a nice way to respond is we know how, but at this point in time, we are enjoying the cricket that we are playing and we want to continue to do that as long as possible and as deep as possible.”