The most successful captain in the history of IPL with five championships, Sharma knows that Mumbai Indians as one of the title contenders enters any tourney with a baggage of hype and hoopla.
And that’s what a protective skipper wants to shield the youngsters in his side from as one can easily get overawed by the sense of occasion.
“Expectations will always be there whenever we go out to play, not just in the IPL. Having played for so many years it does not bother me and I am not worried about what the people are expecting me to do,” Sharma said at the season opening media conference organised by MI.
“We know that we have to do our best and win the trophy. To keep thinking about it all the time is to put pressure on yourself,” the skipper said.
Dewald Brevis, Tilak Verma will all be playing their second season but for young Cameron Green with a multi-million dollar deal, IPL will be a different beast altogether.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on them (youngsters) right now. Closer to our first game, we will give them specific roles. Obviously leading up that first game, guys pretty much know what we are expecting from them,” Sharma explained.
“But the last thing I will do is put too much pressure on them, especially the guys who have not played IPL before and there are a few,” the skipper assured to put his protective arm around the junior members of the contingent.
‘Play like you play first-class cricket’
The one tip that MI skipper always offers to the new players in the set-up is to think the platform as an extension of domestic cricket and do exactly what got them success over there.
“I will try to tell them to replicate what they did in first-class or club cricket. I know the IPL is a different ball game but I tell them to bring that mindset. At the end of the day, the battle is between bat and ball,” he added.
Sharma said while his side will miss Jasprit Bumrah but to compensate his absence, MI will have Jofra Archer ready to unleash his 145 plus thunderbolts.
Mumbai Indians are also expected to announce a replacement for Bumrah, the captain confirmed.
“It will be a big miss but it is an opportunity for someone else. There are a couple of guys who have been with this team for the last two years and they are very much ready to step up. Hopefully we will blood a few youngsters,” Sharma said.
“Jofra (Archer) was part of the team last year, but he was injured. Obviously we all know the quality of Jofra. It is sad we will miss Bumrah this year, we do understand how big his (Jasprit Bumrah’s) shoes are to fill, but there is an opportunity that is up for grabs, to fill that place.
“A lot of young players will get an opportunity and this is a platform for them to come out and express themselves,” he said.
‘Impact Player would depend on team dynamics’
Talking about the new rule of “Impact Player”, Sharma said there will be more clarity on the change after the first few matches.
“There’s no doubt that the captains would use it. But, again, like I said, it depends on all the team dynamics. What the other teams have as an ‘Impact Player’ who is sitting outside.
“We will not be worried about what the other teams are doing. We will see what we can do and how we can strengthen our team on that particular day.
“We’ll get some idea (about how to use the rule) in the first couple of games and obviously, we’ve had a good chat around this new rule as well,” Sharma said.
“Luckily for us, when the first (few) games start, we are playing the last, so we would be able to watch the other teams, what they do and how beneficial it is to the team,” he continued.
‘Nine players are sorted, you need to discuss about a couple’
The ‘Impact Player’ allows 12 players to take active part in the game and hence the skipper said that team combinations will remain fluid although at least nine slots out of 12 being sorted.
Sharma said it was too early for him to discuss team combinations.
“Obviously, (it is) too early to talk about the combination. You want to try and cover all bases. You are playing against RCB and we know how they play. We want to field our best eleven — rather 12 now,” he said.
“These practice games that we play will give us a fair bit of an idea about what we want to do as a team. In terms of combination, it’s pretty tough to reveal anything right now. Your nine of the players are sorted, it’s just that one or two slots that we need to have more chats around. Otherwise, our squad is pretty much settled.”
‘Would love to grow as player with inputs from Boucher’
Sharma had forged a successful combination with Mahela Jayawardene for some years and is equally hopeful that he will develop a fine rapport with new head coach Mark Boucher. For the record, Jayawardene is now the Global Head of all the MI franchises.
“It’s always been my philosophy. I like to learn and grow as a cricketer. I have heard so many good things from the South African players about Mark about how he has taken the SA team through in the last couple of years,” the skipper waxed eloquent.
“When he was taken over as the head coach of the South African team. So, obviously, for me, again, how every individual works, what sort of mindset they have, that will be the key. To understand and learn from Mark how he has taken forward his cricket,” he said.