The new Mumbai Indians coach, Mark Boucher, has left it to skipper Rohit Sharma to decide if and when he needs to sit out games in the Indian Premier League (IPL) to manage his workload ahead of subsequent international commitments.
Rohit, also the India captain, has stressed on the need for national team players to look after their bodies during the two-month long league, and he himself is likely to take a break from a few games during the IPL season. The Indian Express had reported on Wednesday that Rohit might rest for a few IPL matches and Suryakumar Yadav will lead the side when that happens.
During Mumbai Indians’ first interaction with the press leading up to the IPL season, Rohit was asked whether he will take rest. He lobbed the ball to Boucher saying “I think Mark will give you an answer to that.”
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The South African returned the ball to Rohit’s court. “Do you want to rest? He is the captain,” he said, before adding “Hopefully, he (Rohit) gets into some good form and hopefully, he doesn’t want to rest. We will adapt to whatever the situation is. If I can get the best out of him as a captain and as a player, if it means giving him some rest for that, then I’ll do that. No problem.”
Rohit will turn 36 this April. He has had a chequered injury history and knows that his body isn’t the same as before. He has won five IPL titles which have raised expectations from his tenure as India captain. With the World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia starting a week after the IPL final at The Oval in London, Rohit will be doubly eager to lead India at the marquee game.
The 50-over World Cup on home soil in October-November is another big tournament no player wants to miss.
Captain is key
A fit Rohit is crucial for India’a fortunes after the series against the Aussies at home. At the last meeting with the Indian team before the players dispersed for the IPL, he had an important piece of advice for them. “I told them to look after their bodies,” he says, knowing the challenge ahead while playing for their franchises.
This is the reason for all the talk regarding workload management, which has left Boucher surprised. The former Proteas wicketkeeper-batsman said that if a player is feeling tired, the team will rest him.
“Lot of talk is given to workloads and all that kinds of stuff. T20 cricket, if you look at our schedule, there’s a nice gap between games to sort of rest and recover and we can look after every player. I don’t see workloads being a major issue for us throughout the IPL,” he said.
The IPL, for the first time, has introduced an ‘impact player’ rule and at the same time, teams can now announce their team after the toss. Boucher called it a great innovation and feels that it will make it more of a level playing field, especially when dew becomes a huge factor in the Indian summer.
“The 12th player is just a bonus. When he (Rohit) goes out to the toss, he will have the team sheet which he would want to bat first or bowl first with. I am pretty sure that it’s going to be pretty much the same team. You select the best players, the impact player is just a bonus player,” the Mumbai Indians coach added.
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Focus on Archer
Meanwhile, in the absence of the injured Jasprit Bumrah, all eyes will be on Jofra Archer, who missed the last season of IPL due to injury. It will be Mumbai Indians’ bowling attack which Boucher feels will throw some surprises this season.
“Losing Bumrah has been a big loss for us, I will be honest with that. With losing players, you sometimes get opportunities,” he said on the Indian spearhead’s injury.
“The way Mumbai Indians have selected their squads over the last few years is that you select your playing eleven, you select your back-up eleven, and then you invest in a couple of youngsters for the future. It’s now time for those youngsters to show up and basically get the opportunity.
“For me, the big thing for the bowling line-up is that we have got experience, but we have one or two spaces for the youngsters to come through and really showcase their skills. I am really looking forward to seeing them.”
Mumbai Indians have their first warm-up game at the Wankhede Stadium where they will get first-hand knowledge of Archer’s fitness and how he is shaping up for the season.