'Thinking too much about technique was not allowing me to enjoy the game'
Rohit Sharma is having the time of his life.
On field, India's white-ball vice-captain enjoyed a phenomenal 2019 -- he scored a record 2,442 runs as an opener across three formats and more importantly took up the challenge of being a Test opener with stupendous success. Off it, family has put him in a ‘great space’.
"I am a different Rohit in terms of how I think. I am in such a great space in my life because of the family that I have -- my wife (Ritika) and daughter (Samaira). I am not worried about what others are talking," Rohit told PTI in an exclusive interview as he looks back at the 12 eventful years of his career in international cricket.
For someone, who has received bouquets and brickbats in equal measure, the 32-year-old is no longer bothered by criticism.
"They (wife and daughter) fill me with love and happiness and I try to stay within that rather than think about X, Y or Z making comments about me," he said.
"I have actually passed that age to react to someone talking good or bad things about me. Frankly speaking, it doesn’t matter anymore."
A double century on his debut as Test opener against South Africa gave India just the kind of momentum up the order they were desperately looking for after Virender Sehwag's exit from the scene.
But ask Rohit about it and he says, "Honestly speaking, I stopped thinking about Test matches long time back."
"Earlier, I was thinking too much about success in Tests. I would go overboard as to why is this happening, why am I playing that shot. After each Test innings, I would go to our video analyst, sit, watch and then confuse (clutter) my brain further. That wasn't actually the right thing that I was doing," he recalled.
"Thinking too much about technique was not allowing me to enjoy the game. All that was there in my mind was 'Oh I need to do well in Test cricket'. So, before 2018-19 Australia series, I told myself 'Boss whatever has to happen will happen and I am not going to think about technique'.
"At the end of the day, I want to go out there, share a laugh with my mates and enjoy," the stylish Mumbaikar revealed.
Many thought that the South Africa series was his last shot at redemption as a Test cricketer but not the man himself.
"If you talk about opening in the South Africa series, from people's perspective, it was my last chance, but I am a sportsman and I can't think like that. If I thought it was my last chance then I wouldn't have scored runs with that mindset.
"You can't allow negative thoughts to creep in when you are playing such a high-profile sport," he said.
But he is realistic enough to admit that he had to grab the opportunity that came his way.
"I know that I am no longer 22 or 23 years old that I will keep getting opportunities in Test matches and can take my place for granted. I know that every time I go out there, I have to put a high price tag on my wicket. I am blessed to get an opportunity that many are waiting for. So, why should I regret, worry or think about so many things?"
For Rohit, the success in recent years is because of a shield he has built around himself to "shut the noise out".
"When you play the sport, there is a lot of distraction and noise around you. You need to create an environment around yourself so that none of it bothers you. No idea, vision or sermons will come inside that shield unless you allow it. Let people say good things, bad things, one shouldn't be bothered about it."
He empathises with the young Rishabh Pant, who has been hounded by the critics for inconsistency.
"In fact, I was telling Pant the same thing. Poor guy is only 21 (22) and people are telling him to score hundreds in every game, do this and do that. I mean cut him some slack man. I told Rishabh 'Create a wall and ensure that nobody comes inside. It's your safe-house. People want to talk about you, let them do it outside that wall and you do what you intend to do inside your zone'.
"Who knows it might help Rishabh. It worked for me at least."
After the ICC World Cup, there were stories about senior players extending their families' stay beyond the designated number of days and Rohit said he felt hurt at families being dragged into it.
"Our families are there to support us, make us feel happy. When all these things were being written about, few of my friends came and told me and believe me or not, I was just laughing.
"But then it went on and on and they dragged my family and that was not on. You talk about me but don't drag my family as they genuinely don't care about anything else. I think even Virat (Kohli) must have felt the same way as families are an important aspect of our lives."
Edited by Norma Godinho