Rohit’s “good space” has made him the top bat in the World Cup
Before India’s campaign for the 2019 World Cup began, Yuvraj Singh, the hero of the country’s triumph in the 2011 edition had a word of advice for Rohit Sharma.
“Be in a good space,” Yuvraj said.
Which is why I believe India needs to thank Rohit’s support system as much as the stylish bat’s inherent talent for his five centuries at the top of the batting order that have put the country in the semi-final orbit. His wife Ritika and six-month-old daughter Samaira have been travelling with the team, providing Rohit with as Yuvi said, with the good space – to unwind and to relax.
In fact, Rohit has been on a roll pretty much through the first half of 2019. He led Mumbai Indians to a splendid victory in the IPL, holding his nerves during a tense final against familiar rival Chennai Super Kings. What’s special about his leadership skills is that unlike a Virat Kohli or a Sourav Ganguly, he does not show too many emotions on the field. A disappointed smile is how he will usually react to a misfield or a dropped catch. That benign approach in contrast to berating the offender in public glare, has often made colleagues raise their game and put in more effort the next time.
In terms of mindspace, Rohit has come a long way, World Cup 2011 to World Cup 2019. Eight years ago, he was ignored by the selectors and he had tweeted : “Really really disappointed not being part of the WC squad. I need to move on from here but honestly it was a big setback. Any views.”
There are two lessons to be drawn from the Rohit Sharma story 2011-19.
One, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Two, the views of the outside world do not matter. A majority of those celebrating Rohit are those who have attacked his selection in the past, spoken of him as someone getting too many chances to succeed thanks to privileged Mumbai connections.
“What outside people say it does not matter. You should focus on your game, your cricket,” says Rohit now, wiser, more mature.
What the Rohit success story teaches us is that it is important to be an Arjuna, keep the eyeball of the fish’s eye in your sight and cut out the negative vibes, the verbal diarrhoea and the digital lynching. The online crowd’s chatter should neither matter when you are up nor should it matter when the chips are down. In Rohit’s case, only Ritika, Samaira, his parents and the Indian dressing room should.
The ecosystem around him also has let Rohit come into his own, especially at press conferences. It is with a lazy drawl and impish smile that he delivers his wisecracks. Like he did to a question about the advice he would like to give to the Pakistan cricket team.
“Agar main Pakistan ka coach bana to bilkul bataoonga. Abhi kya bataoonga,” Rohit replied to peals of laughter.
Or when he was asked if he was surprised to see Rishabh Pant walking in at number 4, Rohit coolly replied so many people wanted to see him in the team, so there he was. He said a lot without saying it in so many words.
As a batsman, Rohit has few parallels when it comes to sheer elegance. His cover drive is poetry in motion, effortless, without breaking a sweat. The world calls him `Hitman’ but the wordplay is a misnomer because it makes it seem he is a Chris Gayle in blue. Which is perhaps why he prefers `Ro’ of Rohit as is evident from his Twitter handle @ImRo45. His ro(ar) on the 22 yards is what makes him such a formidable scalp for the bowling side.