Rohit Sharma struggles to reveal how much this World Cup means to him. For someone articulate who can seamlessly slip to Hindi or Marathi to speak from the heart, he simply doesn’t know how to describe the feeling of leading India at a World Cup. Almost 12 years after missing out on a World Cup on home soil, Rohit is in the hot seat now, dreaming of becoming the third Indian captain to lift the crown. Part of the side in the last two world cups, termed as “best-ever Indian team’ by their previous coach Ravi Shastri, Rohit knows it is only the World Cup winner tag that is missing him and his generation of players – Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja – that would put them in the same pedestal as Kapil Dev’s and MS Dhoni’s men.
It is the tournament that India have been building up for the last two years now, fine-tuning until the last moment till the Asia Cup. Unlike Dhoni’s team that had a favourites tag hanging over their shoulders, Rohit is in a safe place. Of course, there is pressure of the World Cup, but India know they don’t start as favourites. Starting Sunday against Australia, Rohit & Co have the opportunity to change that narrative with each outing, especially given how everything seems to be falling in place for them.
“You heard the great man say that so many times that you know, until he wins the World Cup, he’s got a bit of unfinished business. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about. So, it’s the same for us as well. You know, you want to win the World Cup, It’s the biggest prize that you can have in your career. But again, there’s a way to do it. There’s a process to it,” Rohit said.
First up is Australia, a side that they are so used to playing, they know each other inside out. Even conditions wise, thanks to the IPL and the numerous stopovers they make annually, there is no secrecy. The Chepauk pitch, under a blanket cover during the day over the past 48 hours, was exposed to the sweltering hot sun on Saturday afternoon. The black soil pitch, having been exposed to excessive heat, is expected to get dry as the match progresses and with dew unlikely to be a factor here, Rohit said conditions in Chennai opens the door for India to start Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and R Ashwin in the XI.
“I mean that’s the luxury we have where we can afford to play three spinners because I don’t really consider Hardik Pandya as just a seamer. He’s a proper fast bowler, who can crank up good speed. So that gives us an advantage, that luxury of playing three spinners and three seamers. There’s a possibility that we can play three spinners on this pitch with three seamers; it gives us that balance, that number eight batting option as well. We have to come here again tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon and see what the pitch looks like but yeah, three spinners is definitely an option,” Rohit said.
Going into the game, the only concern is around the availability of opener Shubman Gill. The opener is down with dengue and Rohit said, he is not yet ruled out of the Sunday’s match.
While the lot led by Kohli, Rohit, Ashwin and Jadeja played an integral role in winning the Champions Trophy in 2013, it happens to be the last ICC title they won. Since then at every ICC tournament they have failed in crunch moments. With the current team having a good mix of experience and young guns, Rohit felt it is important to stay guarded.
“In desperation, you can do so many things that can lead to so many other things as well. So, it’s good to be desperate. It’s good to be hungry. But you’ve got to find that balance, right? Balance to stay desperate and stay hungry for scoring runs, lifting the trophy, winning games, whatever that is. But there is a balance that you need to find. You cannot get way too ahead of yourself because that can lead into something that you don’t really wish for,” Rohit said.