Rohit Sharma. (TOI Photo)MUMBAI: Those who still love ODIs would be delighted to hear that the format still has one major backer. At a time when many current and former cricketers have written off One-Day cricket, Indian captain Rohit Sharma has given a big thumbs-up to the 50-over game, in which he has scored three double hundreds-two against Sri Lanka and once against Australia.
"Mera naam hi One-day cricket se bana hai (I owe my fame to One-Day cricket). Sab bekar ki baatein hai (all this talk about ODIs being outdated is futile). People were earlier talking (similarly) about Test cricket. For me, cricket is important – whatever be the format. I would never say that ODI is getting finished or T20 is getting finished or Tests are nearing an end. I wish there is another format as well, because for me, playing the game is most important. Since childhood, we dreamt of playing the game for India and in my mind. Whenever we play ODIs, stadiums are full, the excitement remains high. It's an individual choice as to which format to play or not, but for me, all three formats are important," Rohit said here on Wednesday.
With the simultaneous launch of the lucrative UAE and South African T20 leagues, there's a growing concern that players would prefer playing in these private leagues rather than represent their country, but Rohit asserted that for him and the rest of Team India players, "playing for the country matters the most."
"I don't know what people are thinking about playing leagues over international cricket. There will be ten more leagues, but in the coming years, we will get to know what the players prefer. But as of now, the situation of Indian cricket remains the same – we play the IPL, the international cricket. The guys are getting exposure and our aim is to create bench strength, so that's why in Zimbabwe, there are a lot of players who are touring for the first time – be it Shahbaz Ahmed, Rahul Tripathi – and it is a good exposure. They are really talented, they will grab the opportunity. It's about getting the confidence at this stage, which I am sure they will learn," he said on the sidelines of a collection launch organised by Adidas.
'I & Rahul bhai spoke about creating bench strength'
The upcoming Asia Cup will see India miss ace pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who is out due to a back injury. With India playing non-stop cricket which involves one series after another, Rohit stressed that he and coach Rahul Dravid had discussed about "creating a bench strength," considering the amount of cricket the team plays, weighing in the injury factor.
"Bumrah, (Mohammed) Shami and all these guys will not be with the Indian team forever, so you have to try and prepare the other guys. I and Rahul bhai spoke about how we are going to create our bench strength because that's going to be very crucial considering the amount of cricket we play, considering the injury factors and everything. We never want to be a team that relies on one or two individuals, we want to be a team where everyone can contribute and help the team win on their own. We want to be that kind of a team and that's why we want to give the youngsters as many opportunities as possible and of course, you have got senior players around them. They can be of good help," he said.
With the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia now just two months away, Rohit said that "80-90% of the team is set," even as "there could be three-four changes if at all depending on the conditions."
"There is still about two-and-a-half months left for the T20 World Cup. Before that, we have the Asia Cup and two home series against Australia and South Africa. So, more or less 80-90 per cent of your team is set, of course there could be three-four changes if at all depending on the conditions. As of now, we have been playing in India and will play in UAE, so the conditions in Australia will be different. We need to check what suits our team in Australia," he said.
With India will play arch-rivals Pakistan thrice in the forthcoming Asia Cup in UAE, there is much excitement around the clashes. While India suffered a 10-wicket defeat to Pakistan in Dubai last year, the India skipper pointed out that things would be different this time.
"The Asia Cup is happening after a long time, but we played Pakistan last year in Dubai, where obviously the result did not go our way. But the Asia Cup is different now. The team is playing differently and has prepared differently, so a lot of things have changed from then. But for us, we need to assess the conditions, keep in mind the fact that we will be playing in 40-plus degrees. We need to assess all those factors and prepare accordingly," he pointed out.
Rohit asserted that his team was focused on the processes, rather than on which team it would play. "My thought has always been that we will not focus on the opponent, but we will continue to play our game. We played against West Indies, England and in both cases, we did not think about who our opposition was, but we focused on things that we had to do as a team and what we had to achieve. Similarly, in the Asia Cup, our focus will be on what to achieve as a team and not think about who we are facing – be it Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka," he stressed.
"As a team, we are working on a few things ahead of the Asia Cup. We have to keep the process going," he summed up.