The Test specialists have returned home, the limited-overs aces will land in Colombo from Bangalore on Thursday (August 17) and wend their way to Dambulla, the scene of the first One-Day International. Wednesday was another day of rest and relaxation for the members of the Test squad that are also in the ODI side. For all the members, that is, except KL Rahul, Axar Patel and Rohit Sharma, named the vice-captain of the limited-overs teams for the first time.
The entire retinue of support staff accompanied these three gents to the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium for a practice session that was, expectedly, crisp if not brief. All three focussed on topping up their batting skills – Rahul signed off the session by batting with a stump, while Rohit’s emphasis after ensuring his batting world was in order was to play sweep strokes of various hues – the cheeky paddle and the even more outrageous reverse.
“It is something that the game demands these days,” Rohit said on the scheduled final day of the Test series, of his sweeping drills. “You’ve got to be innovative and you’ve got to play different kind of shots to get maximum results. You keep learning every day, and I keep trying these things and learning about things I can do and things I cannot do. Every addition to your armoury is good, I am trying to see what I can add to my armoury. What better place than coming here and doing it? That’s what training sessions are all about. Come here, improve your skills and try and get better as a player.
“Every day is a learning day. Today, I got to learn something playing those sweeps and reverse-sweeps when someone like (Lasith) Malinga comes and bowls to you. Every day you enter the field, you go on to learn something new. There were so many things in 10 years I have learnt and it is very hard to put it across right now,” added Rohit, who has just ticked over into his 11th year in international cricket. “There are so many things, you must have seen over the years, especially in the limited-overs format. Initially when I came in, I sort of used to play too many shots at once. Now, I have realised that it cannot be going out and just slogging every time. You’ve got to understand the situation, the conditions and that’s what I have learnt over these years, with so many coaches around. I will still continue to learn and that is the greatest part of this sport, that you learn everyday and there is something to look forward to everyday.”
Rohit isn’t too thrilled talking about Test cricket – ‘Test cricket is over now, I am just thinking about the ODIs’ – but he did provide an insight into what his routines where during the Test series that India swept 3-0 on Monday. “Nobody likes to sit out. But again, it all depends on the team dynamics, what the captain and the coach want to play,” he offered. “You’ve got to accept the fact and move forward. That’s what I have been doing. I’ve kept working on my skills, my ability, wherever I need to work on and see where I can improve as a cricketer.
“You cannot sit here and waste time. All I was trying to do these past 3-4 weeks was just to improve my skills, see where things are going wrong and try and strengthen the strength I have. Talk to all the coaches there, they have been looking after us for a long time, they know exactly what is going on with each individual. I have been trying to figure out where things can go right, where things went wrong. Things like that – you always try and improve as a cricketer and look back — and watch from the outside how we played the Test cricket. It was great to watch everyone displaying that skill, 3-0 outside India, great achievement.”
Rohit has reasonably decent numbers against Sri Lanka in ODI cricket – 1043 runs from 37 matches at 35.96 – but it was against them that he made 264 in Kolkata in November 2014, to date the highest individual score in ODI history. “You know, I have had some good times against Sri Lanka and at the same time, I have had some terrible times against Sri Lanka in 2012 which I clearly remember,” pointed out the 30-year-old of the five-match bilateral series in this country, which yielded just 13 runs and two ducks. “It is something that happens in sport, there will be ups and downs. I have played these guys so many times now, we have come to Sri Lanka many times and we understand the conditions well. You know the kind of cricket you want to play, the opposition and the kind of bowling dynamics they have. We played these guys a lot many times and that will help. I am not thinking about any particular thing, but yes, it will always be at the back of my mind that I have scored some runs against these guys.”
Sri Lanka named their 15-man squad for the ODI series on Tuesday, a side with several changes to the one that scaled down India’s 321 for 6 in the Champions Trophy game at The Oval this June. “I have no idea about the squad for this ODI series but what they had in the Champions Trophy was a very good side,” agreed Rohit. “They beat us quite comfortably. We posted a very good score. 320 was never going to be easy, especially in those conditions, but they came out and batted fearlessly and took the game away from us. In one-day cricket, they are a very good team. We just got to do what we have been doing for the past few years. We got to stick to our strengths and things like that.
“We have been playing good cricket. West Indies (ODI series) was good, Champions Trophy was good except for one day (the final against Pakistan) but that can happen. In the past two years, we have played some consistent cricket in the ODI format. As far as I am concerned, we need to look at what we need to do as a team and bring out the best on the field,” he added. “That’s what we did in the recent Test series. We just focussed on what we need to do as a group and that has always been the talk. We need to focus on our ability and strengths.”