The Mumbai Indians may be favourites to retain their IPL title under captain Rohit Sharma, who said that the key this season could be getting the team combination right and having the new-look side gel together. In a chat with The Indian Express, Sharma spoke on IPL, his batting, the defeat in the final of the World T20 and why Yuvraj Singh should not be blamed for it. Excerpts:
The IPL will be played in two legs (first in Dubai and then in India). What kind of challenges will it pose?
More than the playing conditions, what will be the key for most of the teams is how quickly every player gels with the other. After the auction, the teams have many new members and it will be a challenge for them to perform as a group. If the atmosphere in the dressing room is friendly and positive, then it is reflected on the field. Right combinations will be the key to success. These will be challenging two months ahead.
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The Mumbai Indians have managed to retain most of the players from the previous seasons. Will that be an advantage?
Except Mitchell Johnson and Dwayne Smith, we have pretty much the same side. We wanted to buy Johnson and used the joker card too but sadly it couldn’t happen. However, the core players still remain the same; plus, we have Michael Hussey and Zaheer Khan, who bring a lot of experience. So picking the right combination will be important for us. On a personal note, I’m looking forward to learn from Hussey how he manages to be so consistent.
How much will Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting’s absence affect MI?
I’m going to miss them for sure. When I was leading last season, there were two people in the dressing room who we all looked up to. Having Tendulkar and Ponting in the side meant we had knowledge and experience of world cricket. Now when you look back at it, there were enough indications that they might not play for us next season. If you see, Ponting decided to step down from captaincy last season after leading for few games and later Tendulkar did not play the final league games.They made sure that the positive energy stayed throughout the season. We still have Anil Kumble and John Wright and they are working very hard behind the scenes.
How has the last year been for you?
The IPL captaincy gave me lot of confidence and it helped me when I played international cricket. I had a good home series but the tours of South Africa and New Zealand did not go as expected. Test cricket is very different and I realised it post South Africa tour. I don’t want to give any excuse but I was disappointed with the way I batted. I went to South Africa after scoring two Test hundreds at home. Instead of trying to spend more time at the crease, I played my shots. The way I was getting out was wrong and it was my mistake. The key was to leave the ball. When you play in India the ball comes nicely to bat but that’s not the case away from home. I’m just six Test matches old. Playing Tests abroad was a new experience not only for me but for everyone. Except Zaheer Khan and MS Dhoni, most of the players did not have experience of playing Tests outside the subcontinent. We understood the importance of each sessions. If we had managed to get a wicket in second session during Johannesburg Test or in New Zealand, things could have been different. In South Africa, I realised why people say Test is a real Test for any cricketer. Probably when we tour again, things might be different.
India will be travelling to England and Australia later this year. What are your plans?
I don’t know, but I’m taking this IPL season as preparation for England. I know there is a vast difference in the conditions and wickets but it’s also about confidence and momentum. I believe cricket is game of confidence. Sometimes, you might not be technically strong but it’s a batsman’s confidence which helps him score runs.
Losing the final of World T20 must have been disappointing.
Yes it was, we were the only team without any defeat going into the final. One bad game and it was over. Credit should go to Sri Lanka the way they bowled. Same thing had happened during 2012 World T20 in West Indies where we lost just one game but still couldn’t make it to the knock-out stage.
What do you have to say about the Yuvraj Singh criticism?
It was really disturbing. I can understand that we have high expectations back home but anyone can have one bad day in office. When the team wins, people say it’s team game. So how come when we lose, only one man is blamed? He is the same guy who won you the World T20 in 2007 and also the 2011 World Cup. If he had not batted the way he did against Australia in 2011 World Cup quarterfinals, we could not have won the tournament.