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Leave Rishabh Pant alone: Rohit Sharma


Rohit Sharma doesn’t see the upcoming five-match T20I series against England as rehearsal for the T20 World Cup later in the year. For him, it’s important to win every match of the series and any future tournaments can be dealt with later as he wants everyone to focus on the present.

“You’re playing for India. There is no rehearsal here,” Rohit, India’s vice-captain in white-ball cricket, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

He also spoke about Rishabh Pant’s form, Hardik Pandya’s availability for the first T20I and how his batting approach changes with match situations. Also, he has an advice for Suryakumar Yadava and Ishan Kishan, who may make their India debuts during the series. Excerpts:

Is the T20I series against England a dress rehearsal for the upcoming World Cup?

No. You’re playing for India. There is no rehearsal here. You’re playing for the country, you’re wearing that Jersey and going out there. So, there’s no time for rehearsal and all that. You just got to be at it, doesn’t matter which opposition you play. For us it is important to win the series, to do our best. Not to think about too far ahead, just focus on the present. The future will take care of itself. If we focus on the present, future will be bright. It’s a five-match series, a long series, and for us it’s important to see where we stand as a team and as individuals also. But, there’s no time for rehearsal here. We just need to be at it and we need to have that mindset of winning each and every game that we play here.

How should Rishabh Pant, who is coming into the series with great form, approach this series?

If we can let Rishabh Pant be Rishabh Pant, he will give you those [special] performances. I’ve said it in the past many a times. He can only go from strength to strength from here. There’s no looking back for him. He’s done exceptionally well in the last few months, from Australia to the home series that we played just now against England.

I don’t see anything stopping him. Unless we try and put pressure on him, we as in you guys (media) trying to put pressure on him.

He likes to enjoy his game. You must have seen it on the ground how he likes to play his game and that is what we as team management and players expect from him to just go out there and enjoy the game and do what he likes to do.

The good thing about his game right now is that he has started to understand the situation, which is good for someone like him to understand the game situation and play according to that. He has looked very good in whatever he has done, whether we talk about his keeping or his batting approach.

This is another series for him which will take his confidence a notch higher if he keeps performing in the same manner. And we leave him alone and allow him to play with freedom.

It’s important for him. He needs that freedom. And as a team management we are prepared to do that.

I’m going to ask you the same question. Are you prepared to do the same?

His advice to new-comers Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, who both play under him at Mumbai Indians.

I don’t want them to be thinking about anything. That’s how they bring their best performance out. Having watched them closely for a few years now, I have realised it’s important for them to be part of this wonderful team, a great set-up, which the team has. So I just want them to have fun and understand what this team is all about.

Keeping in mind that this is their first time in the squad, they will be a little nervous, they will be thinking about performance and all. But it’s important for people like me, other senior members and the coaching staff to tell them that it’s just another team that you got to be part of and they just have to enjoy that moment because thinking about performance and what they need to do when they get an opportunity will only put pressure on them.

So [they should] just have fun, relax and be part of this wonderful set-up first and when the opportunity comes… These guys have done really well in the last few years, especially the last year, and it’s just about carrying that form and putting it out there. It’s not going to be that easy here. They will be challenged every now and then but that’s what international cricket is all about. How you respond to those challenges is crucial. So, you need to keep telling them about having the right mindset to counter those challenges.

Does he approach T20s any different than ODIs?

I have played more than 100 T20Is, so you should know my approach by now, what my approach is, what I do. I don’t need to talk about the approach I bring into the game because I have done for many years now but yeah, the situation changes every now and then. So based on the situation of the game, I have to change my game. The approach will always remain the same, which is to have that intent, to have that scoring mindset.

The situation of the game is what I look forward to because that keeps changing every game that you play. So I think it’s very important for me to understand that situation and play accordingly, whether we bat first or bowl first. The situation of the game demands the approach of your batting. So keeping that in mind, I play my game.

Will Hardik Pandya play the first T20 on Friday?

I cannot reveal who starts and who doesn’t start. Of course, he has been with the squad and has been an integral part of the squad. He has been working on his bowling, he has been working on his batting and the particular skillset he has. He has been trying to sharpen those skillsets as well.

It has been a good month-and-a-half that he has been with the team and has done pretty much everything he needed to do to get ready for this limited-overs series. It seems that the time has come for him to get ready and start doing what he does. He has worked hard on his bowling and hard on his batting in the last few weeks. I hope he is ready to do what the team expects him to.

On his form in Test cricket:

The benefit [of the red-ball success] is when you have to keep aside your natural and then play, I feel you have already won a battle. I feel whenever you have to go against your nature, and have to do those things you are not used to, that’s a small victory for you. If you keep doing such things again and again, it will only boost your confidence.

I feel in Australia and then in India especially, the way I batted, I really liked the way I batted, especially in the last Test. I made only 49 runs but I played 150 balls. So for me, personally, that was a big victory because I had to play against my natural game. They were bowling me well outside off and I felt like playing my shots but I curbed those instincts and batted. Like people say the batsman played a bad shot and got out, I didn’t play that bad shot. I batted with the required disciplined. Unfortunately, I got out on 49, but I was really happy with my effort.

Right now, the challenge for me in Test cricket is how many balls I play, not how many runs I score. The challenge for me is to play 100 balls, 150 balls, 200 balls, and even more. I think in terms of balls, runs will come automatically. The challenge for me is to play as many balls as possible. And that will be beneficial for me as well as the team.

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