Star India batsman Rohit Sharma on Sunday said while the national cricket team members are disappointed at not being able to retain the World Cup, a new challenge
awaits them in the form of the upcoming Indian Premier League.
India lost to eventual champions Australia by 95 runs in the semifinals of cricket’s showpiece event at Sydney and IPL franchise Mumbai Indians’ captain Rohit said the focus was now solely on winning the eighth season of the cash-rich Twenty20 tournament.
“It was disappointing not to bring the World Cup back, but once we got back to India we knew a new challenge was lying in front of us, which was the IPL. Now we are thinking about how to win the championship,” said Rohit at a media conference here today ahead of the IPL, starting on April 8.
The Indian opener, who has two ODI double hundreds to his credit, said although the Indian team had stayed for around four months in Australia, everyone was now prepared mentally and physically for two months of IPL.
“I am perfectly ready. IPL schedule is released well in advance. So everyone knew we had to compete soon after spending four months in Australia, so all of us are prepared mentally. I don’t think anyone is mentally tired because ultimately, as players, we want to do well in every tournament we play. It is an opportunity, another big platform for all of us to perform,” said Rohit.
Mumbai Indians, champions in 2013, are all set to take on the defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening game of the T20 tournament at the Eden Gardens and he was gung-ho about the chances of his team.
“They (KKR) have got the bowling line up and are defending champions. We have to be at our best. Obviously being the first game pressure will be on both sides to perform. They play well in Kolkata and understand the conditions really well. We got the squad, the batting line up to overcome that situation.
“We have roped in a lot of young Indian talent in the players’ auction. It looks a very well balanced squad. We have had a very good preparation ahead of this IPL season. We hope that all youngsters deliver during the tournament,” he said.
Rohit was also happy that Mumbai’s first game was in Kolkata, where they had beaten Chennai Super Kings in the 2013 final.
“We have had very good memories of Kolkata. We won the championship there. We understand the conditions there very well. Am sure the guys can exploit the conditions well. It will be an important opening game for us. It will be important to get the first win of the tournament and build that momentum and continue from there,” he said.
Team’s head coach and former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting said the team has had a good preparation for IPL.
“We have a great challenge ahead. We are heading to play Kolkata, the reigning champions, for the first game of the IPL on their home ground. So far this week’s been great. Our preparation has been great. I really love the attitude of our players,” said Ponting, who played in one IPL season without much success and then stepped down from the Mumbai captaincy.
“We have two training days in Kolkata to make sure that they are up to speed with the conditions and the way we want to play our cricket as a team. In IPL, when you are getting most of your players into the squad reasonably late, that is a great challenge for the coaches to make sure they are physically rested and mentally prepared for the contest at the same time.
“You have to make sure their skills are ready to go as well. We have had a really big training week where we have particularly worked hard and when we get to Kolkata, we know we have got two more sessions over there to prepare for the first game. The attitude that the boys have shown over the last few days, I have no doubt they will be prepared for the start of the first match,” he added.
Ponting said that his new innings in cricket as a coach has been exciting.
“The last week’s been terrific. Obviously I have known that I will be the coach of Mumbai Indians for a few months now. I had the time to plan and think about how I wanted to coach the team. I took over when the squad was pretty much established; 15-16 players were retained from last season. It was a lot of fun to be involved in the players’ auction. There also we have a very good squad. We have picked a lot of young Indian talents into our group,” he said.
“My job as coach of MI is to make sure they have got everything exactly the way the captain wants it. I have got to get players organised and make sure that their skills are good and more importantly they are in a positive frame of mind.
“Although I was not a very good T20 player, the best thing is that I understand the game pretty well. I have been around for a long time. The fact is I was here in IPL 6 (2013
season), started the tournament, but did not play really well.
So that was when I actually went into a bit of coaching role when I stepped down from playing and that turned out to be pretty well,” Ponting said.
“And for the last two years, I have been commentating on T20 back in Australia. So I have stayed really close to the game, am understanding the way the game is played, understanding more and more the tactical side of the game,” he explained.
Ponting also said that looking at the game from outside gives a new perspective.
“When you take a step back from playing, you analyse the game a lot closer, considering a lot of tactical sides of the game. That’s the sort of stuff I have been working to bring in to Mumbai Indians this year. I have been responsible for the tactical side of things, the planning side of things and as I said, making sure the planning is as best as it can be and we have our players 100 per cent prepared for anything that might pop up during a game,” he said.
Ponting praised Rohit’s captaincy skills.
“As far as Rohit’s captaincy is concerned, he has been spot on. Back in 2013, when we won the title, I stood down and he took over and the way he controlled the side on the ground was fantastic. He looks ahead, understands the game really well. And more importantly, communicates with the players really well on the field.
“The players are very clear in what he wants from them before they take the field. I am trying to make sure I make it easy for him as far as possible. Make sure that he gets all the tactics he needs. All the match-ups he needs. And then when it is match time, he can go out there and captain the team the way he wants,” said Ponting.
He was confident that former New Zealand pace ace Shane Bond could work wonders with the younger MI bowling lot, as he had done so well with the Kiwi pace attack.
“Having Shane around in our group is terrific. Where he has been, what he has done has had a great impact suddenly on the New Zealand fast bowlers. Since he has been in that job, the improvement in Trent Boult and Tim Southee and guys like that has been remarkable. We are hoping that he can have the similar impact on some of the younger guys.”
“Some of our senior guys like Lasith Malinga know their game, how they need to prepare for a game. Shane has been here only for a couple of days. He is enjoying really well. He has already taken full control of our bowling group.”
“It is all about spin bowlers which I think is really important. Will have a bit of assistance with that since he is a fast bowling coach but he will be looking after the entire group and am sure he will do a great job,” said Ponting.
Asked whether MI’s pace spearhead Malinga’s current form was a cause for concern, skipper Rohit said the Sri Lankan sling-arm bowler was an experienced campaigner.
“I don’t think it is a concern. He is an experienced campaigner and a dangerous bowler. He has proven it again and again over the years, especially for MI.
“When we won the 2013 championship, he played an integral part. He was the key wicket-taker for us in that season. For someone like Malinga, it is just a matter of one game. I am
sure he knows his body well.”
“His work ethics are pretty good. I’m sure he’s raring to go. He just had a game last night. He got four overs under his belt (in practice game last night) and is looking forward to the coming season. It’s just a matter of one game for him,” said Rohit.
Verbal duels part of the game: Ponting
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who in his playing days led a team known for its sledging, on Sunday said on-field verbal duels was part and parcel of the game but it should be within limits.
“I believe it is part of the game but players probably do have to understand where the line is and make sure they are not overstepping the line. That’s all we can say to our
players, that’s all we are worried about,” said Mumbai Indians chief coach Ponting at a media conference.
“We are worried about MI, we are not worried about what’s happened in the World Cup or what’s happened before that. We just have to make sure that we handle our players well and that our players understand the way we want to play our game and the way we want them to play the game. That’s about the same,” he added.
“Yes, the same. Exactly,” retorted MI captain Rohit Sharma, when asked about on-field verbal duels. Sharma attended the IPL match officials’ conclave on Saturday and had a brief discussion.
Asked what he said at the conclave, Sharma said, “We just had a very brief discussion about how to run the game. It was in the interest of the game. Whatever we came out with, I am sure it was for the betterment of the game. It was a brief discussion. I cannot tell in public the issues that were raised. We discussed on those issues that you will know along the course of the tournament,” said Sharma.
MI team manager Rahul Sanghvi said the players have been told to follow the IPL guidelines on anti-corruption issues which had rocked the tournament in the past.
“When it comes to anti corruption issues, we just follow the guidelines. There are anti corruption briefings conducted by the IPL before the tournament starts and obviously those briefings put a lot of things in place and the boys know what is to be done. So I don’t have any role to play in it, it is all done by IPL, we just follow the guidelines,” said the
former India left-arm slow bowler.