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The Rediff Special/Harish Kotian
Colt for the course
August 17, 2006
At just 19, without a single domestic game in his kitty, Rohit Sharma is already knocking the doors of international cricket. His name is being discussed in national selection meetings and there is a feeling that this Mumbai youngster could make it to the Indian team soon.
Rohit took his first small, but a vital, step in international cricket when he made it to the 30-man probables' list for the ICC Champions Trophy, to be held later this year. Though he may not make it to the final 14 or 15, he believes he is ready for the big stage, incase needed.
"I am absolutely ready for international cricket," he declared.
But can his young shoulders handle the pressures of international cricket?
Former India all-rounder and India 'A' coach Robin Singh feels he needs to play domestic cricket for a year or so before he can make it to the Indian team, an opinion endorsed by his coach since childhood, Dinesh Lad.
"I feel he is too young and inexperienced to be selected in the Indian team right now," says Robin Singh, under whom Rohit played in the Top End series in Australia.
"He is a strokeful player, quite aggressive, but needs to work a little bit on his technique. He has the potential to make it big, but, probably, what he needs is to play some more domestic cricket," said Singh.
"He has hardly played any domestic cricket, so he needs to play competitive cricket at the domestic level to build on his temperament and gain some experience. He must learn to understand the needs of playing long innings at the domestic level, where the competition is quite stiff," Singh added.
Meanwhile, Lad, who has honed Rohit's skills since he was 12, feels a failure or two at the international level could wreck his career.
"Rohit is so young. If he is selected for India and if he fails he will get depressed. Maybe it's too early for him and also the fact that the team is full of stalwarts. Some of them could retire after the World Cup, that is when Rohit could make it to the team, but for now he must just concentrate on domestic cricket," Lad said.
"He must play all Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy matches this season and do well. Right now I think he is the best batsman in Mumbai; he will prove it out there in the middle in the upcoming season," Lad added.
Lad was responsible for spotting the rich talent in Rohit during a cricket match that saw the youngster's brilliant performance send his team [Swami Vivekananda] crashing to defeat.
"When I saw him, immediately I knew that this boy was special. So I asked him to join Swami Vivekananda school, where I coach. I spoke to his uncle, with whom he stayed, but they said they couldn't afford the fees of that school.
"Then I spoke to the director of our school and got him admitted. Since then I have been taking care of him."
Lad believes the turning point for Rohit came when he scored a century for Mumbai Under-17 against Baroda, after which he was selected for the National Cricket Academy.
Rohit's biggest plus point, Lad feels, is that he plays straight.
"He looks to play straight from the middle of the bat. He is technically strong, a good all-rounder and is useful with the ball. He is a brilliant fielder too," Lad said.
Meanwhile, Rohit also agrees with the coaches views and says experience is the key right now.
"If you ask me, I am ready to play international cricket right now. But I also agree with the coaches' views that I need to gain some experience at the domestic level," said Rohit, who hit the headlines with an attacking knock of 142 from 123 balls against North Zone in the Deodhar Trophy in March.
"I am very happy to be selected among the 30 probables for the Champions Trophy. I must thank the selectors for giving youngsters a chance and encouraging them," said the Mumbai youngster.
For now though, he is just concentrating on taking one step at a time; focusing on playing big innings at whatever level he plays.
His first big test will be the upcoming Ranji Trophy season, where he will try and prove he is a class above the rest.