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The IPL has always brought out the best in Rohit Sharma the batsman – he is the second most prolific run-scorer in the tournament after Suresh Raina. In IPL 2013, we are getting to see a different aspect of Rohit’s game – his leadership.
Leading the high-profile and most passionately followed IPL team, Mumbai Indians, Rohit has displayed tremendous calmness and maturity. It’s a tricky job to captain a team with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, among an array of experienced overseas players. It’s even trickier to take over from one of the most successful international captains of all times – Ricky Ponting.
But the 26-year-old Indian batsman has not disappointed. In what Rohit rates as one of his more satisfying wins as captain, the Mumbai Indians defeated Chennai Super Kings by a whopping 60 runs in front of their adoring home crowd. After the match a pleased Rohit spoke to iplt20.com about the magnitude of the win, experience of captaining the team and its effect on his batting.
How big is this win, breaking CSK’s seven-match winning streak?
This was a big game for us and we really wanted to win it. But before the game we discussed that we need to be relaxed and not think of it as a big game. We knew that if we stayed cool, expressed ourselves and played to our potential, we would win easily. That’s what happened.
Do you think MI vs CSK is turning out to be the biggest rivalry of IPL?
It’s good for the spectators to watch. Chennai Super Kings have been playing extremely consistent cricket since the first season and it’s always a challenge to play them. They do bring out the best in us and it’s always very sweet to beat them.
Captaincy is doing wonders to you in this IPL, isn’t it?
Yes, it actually is. It’s a very good start that I have got. Out of five games I have won four and lost one. I would take that result as a captain. But I am not going to relax. We still need to play good cricket for the next five games and get to the Play-Offs comfortably.
What kind of a captain would you say you are?
I try not to over-think and keep it simple. I’ve realised that you’ve got to be calm on the field, to be able to take the right decisions. As a captain you don’t get much time in this format. You have to be quick in shuffling your plans and rotating your bowlers, at the same time, give your players the space they want.
This maturity and calmness that you require in captaining the team in such a fast-paced format, is it helping you as a batsman in any way?
It is. As captain I have an additional responsibility to lead from the front with the bat and I have to be calm. Having said that, I try not to put pressure on myself thinking I have too much on my plate. I just want to keep enjoying myself in both aspects of my responsibility and ensure that Mumbai Indians do well.
How do you approach a T20 innings as a batsman?
I understand one very important thing that in this format you have a lot more time as a batsman than you think you do. People say it’s a short format but if you think deeply and look at it closely, you will realise that you still have a lot of time as a batsman. So, I take my time and when I am required to go after the bowlers, I do that. In a T20 game it’s very important to analyse the match situation.
When Chris Morris learned that Chennai Super Kings shelled out $625,000 in the 2013 IPL auction to acquire his services for the season, he exclaimed that he hadn’t seen so much money in his life before.
After playing 11 IPL games, the South African all-rounder has made quite a few entries on the list of things he saw for the first time. India, its heat and its cricket crazy people, the deafening noise at the jam-packed stadiums and the experience of playing in the challenging alien conditions are a few of them.
To his credit, Morris has done a commendable job picking 11 wickets at a decent strike-rate of 7.65 despite this being his first trip to India. In a chat to iplt20.com after CSK’s game with Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium the 26-year old all-rounder shared his IPL experience with the Super Kings.
You must have settled well into the whole IPL atmosphere now. Feeling at home?
Yes, very much so. This is an unbelievable team. The guys are very nice here and there is a big family environment in the team. I’m having a very good time.
Did the 2012 CLT20 give you a fair idea of what to expect in the IPL?
You can never prepare for what you’re going to get in the IPL. It’s a completely different world out here in terms of how cricket crazy the people are. It’s been outstanding from day-one in terms of my team, the crowd and the massive support. I couldn’t have asked for anything else. I got a bit of a shock when I got here but I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.
You must have heard stories about the IPL from your South African mates. How do you relate those stories to your own experiences?
I think the parties have died down a bit since the first season. The guys explained to me how hot it was in Chennai but I didn’t realise what they were talking about until I got there. Faf (du Plessis) told me that the crowds are so noisy, you cannot hear the person standing next to you and you can’t think. I said, ‘yeah, yeah, how loud could it be’. When I got on the field, I was shocked. You actually can’t hear what’s going on.
Despite coming to India for the first time, you seemed to have adjusted to these wickets pretty well. Did you prepare beforehand?
I think it’s good-length to good-length anywhere in the world. To be honest I have been lucky a few times with some of my wickets. I bring something different to the team, I’m told. That means I must just keep doing what I have been doing and keep things simple.
You haven’t got too many batting opportunities given CSK’s batting strengths. Would you like more time in the middle to experience batting in India?
My chance is going to come when I am needed to hit some out of the park. But if it doesn’t come, as long as we are winning, I’m happy. For the sheer experience of batting on Indian wickets, yes! I’ve had only a handful of balls to face. The nets have been interesting though.
You have another SA all-rounder in Albie Morkel with you in the team. What role has he played in easing you into the tournament?
He’s been very good to me. Albie has got a lot of experience; he’s been in the IPL since the first season. Besides a lot of advice on my game, he has helped me in many other important ways. He keeps me calm when I need to be calm and pushes me when needed. He’s a brilliant bloke to have around.
What quality of MS Dhoni’s captaincy stands out for you?
He never stresses and if he is, he never shows it. He always believes that we’ve got a chance, no matter what the match situation. As a new guy in the team, he’s been very good to me. Every time I have needed a chat, he’s come and chatted to me. He’s a down to earth, nice guy. But the ultimate thing about him is that he’s very, very cool under pressure.
You were pretty excited to play under the mentorship of Stephen Fleming. How has that been?
It’s been unbelievable, a dream come true. He’s such a great guy. You hear stories about different coaches and he has just been absolutely outstanding. He’s a brilliant guy off the field but when it’s business time, it’s business time. He has so much cricket knowledge that you can pick up. I’ve had a couple of batting sessions with him but the main thing is he backs you 100 per cent. He says that you have been picked for a reason and gives you the freedom to express yourself.