Relaxed Rohit neither ‘too excited’ nor feeling ‘much pressure’ ahead of big final

Relaxed Rohit neither 'too excited' nor feeling 'much pressure' ahead of big final
Relaxed Rohit neither ‘too excited’ nor feeling ‘much pressure’ ahead of big final

Calmness. Atmosphere. Mindset. Positivity. Expectation.

These are words India captain Rohit Sharma used with regularity in his 36-minute pre-final press conference in Ahmedabad ahead of the big day against Australia. He didn’t say it, of course, but what he alluded to was this: while it’ll be nice to win, they aren’t weighed down by the prospect of playing a pressure game.

He stood by this theory seven weeks ago, ahead of India’s tournament opener – also against Australia – in Chennai. He wasn’t going to deviate from that thought process now, on the eve of one of the biggest games of his career yet.

“That’s what I believe in,” Rohit said when asked of his nonchalant quip at the very beginning of the World Cup. “We just want to go out there, keep it nice and easy, and calm. I had said then, ‘Yeah it’ll be nice to win’. In the same tone, I want to say it again: it’ll be nice to win, [and] we’ve worked really hard. But I don’t want to get too excited and feel much pressure about it.”

Rohit also spoke candidly about how his views were organically resonated by every member of the group, but how equally welcoming everyone has been about embracing different emotions in the change room.

“It’s not just me, I can sense that from every other player in the changing room,” he said. “There’s laughter going around; there are a few tense faces as well. I’m not going to hide it. But that’s why this sport is so exciting – you see different kind of emotions. When it’s game time, guys are well aware of what needs to be done. I don’t need to specifically tell them things like, ‘It’s time to get the job done’.

“The guys are experienced. Yes, not many have played the [World Cup] final, but playing for India is as good as playing in any World Cup game. There’s so much pressure, so much expectation. People keep telling you – do this, do that, score 200, take five wickets. It’s in your head all the time. These days the guys have their headphones on to keep the noise out (laughs). But yeah, it’s nice – we’ve enjoyed the journey thoroughly, [with] just one final push now.”

Rohit exuded calmness, giving away a vibe of someone totally relaxed and at peace with his surroundings. You couldn’t say from his body language that he was speaking ahead of a World Cup final. This could’ve well been a bilateral fixture or an IPL game. It’s unlikely he would’ve resonated with different views. He was patient enough in explaining his rationale, only grimacing slightly at the sound of mobile phones ringing. He was asked about completing a life’s circle: from watching the 2011 final from the outside to leading India in one, 12 years later.

“I don’t want to go back there. It was a very emotional period – a very hard time – and everyone knows about it,” Rohit said. “I’m very happy [that even] at this age I’m leading the team into the final. I never thought it’ll happen, but things do happen if you wish for it, [and] if you dream big.

“I’m very happy to be here, I know the importance [of the final], but I just want to keep it nice and relaxed and calm, and not get too emotional thinking about what happened in 2011 and what can happen here. I want to create the same environment I created for myself when we started this World Cup. We’re all in a great space. I just want to maintain that. Not be too up, too down. Just be nice and balanced.”

“You cannot just go out and play wildly to play that brand of cricket. We’ve given roles to certain individuals in this team, and told them how the team will benefit from it”

Rohit Sharma on India’s approach in this World Cup

Rohit elicited peals of laughter in the room when he sat back and heard another question about sticking to a certain “brand of cricket”. The obvious reference being his refreshing approach up top and the ripple effect that has had on the rest of the batting line-up.

“Brand vand zaroori hai (Playing as per a brand is important) if you’ve decided it you have to implement that,” he said. “I thought the guys have done that. You can see with the scores that we’ve put up on the board, [or] the way we’ve gone about our chases. Obviously, you cannot just go out and play wildly to play that brand of cricket. We’ve given roles to certain individuals in this team, and told them how the team will benefit from it. I think 99.9% we’ve done [that]; 0.1% I’ve taken out because you can’t be perfect.

“But I’m very pleased with the messaging that myself and Rahul [Dravid] bhai have given to the boys, and the boys have responded really well without worrying about their place in the team, without worrying about the scores they get, [and] without worrying about what happens outside, which is the most important part.

“The environment we’ve created is a very special one. We want to maintain that [for] as long as possible, and not get fazed by what happens outside, [or] what people talk [about]. If a score doesn’t come from individuals, I don’t want them to change the process that they had before the start of the tournament. All those things are very clear with everyone. The ten games we’ve played, we were very straightforward with that.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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