Rohit Sharma loves Australia and says that it is one of his favorite places in the world to visit. He likes playing against them as well. In an Instagram Live session with David Warner, the opener hoped that India's tour of Australia could go ahead later in the year. "I personally love playing against Australia," Rohit said.
"Whenever there's an opportunity to play against Australia it's a different feeling. Last year when we were in Australia and when we won the series which has never happened before in the history of Indian cricket, it was good for us as a team. I know you guys were missing but still what the bowlers and the batters did there for us was a great boost. Actually we were quite looking forward to this year's tour as well. I hope somehow both the boards they try and manage to do something and get this series underway because it will be great for the teams as well firstly but also a great release for people to watch. It will be a great way to kick off cricket in the world if that happens.
"I don't know, IPL is likely to happen at some stage as well, I but I have no idea about what date or month it would be. Once everything settles down a little bit, probably a better idea for us to judge whether it is likely to happen or not. But I'm really looking forward to the Australian tour, I hope it really happens - in Jan or Feb or whenever it is.
"We love coming to Australia, love playing against you guys. It's a great contest with you guys. We know that once we land in Australia, nothing comes easy, not just the runs or the wickets but also when you're out shopping or anything nothing comes easy there. It is one of my favorite places in the world, Australia and I love going to Australia."
Rohit highlighted the impact of Ricky Ponting in the Mumbai Indians' setup in 2015 when they started the IPL disastrously losing 5 matches on the trot before roaring back to win seven out of their next nine, eventually emerging as champions.
"That was pretty tough," he said. "We were facing a lot of pressure from the spectators. You know how people in India are, especially Mumbai, they are quite passionate about cricket over here and then the franchise as well. Our franchise owners are quite passionate as well about the game. There was a lot of pressure. I remember we were in Dubai for the first five games and then we had to head back to India. We lost all those five games in Dubai and then luckily for me I had [Ricky] Ponting around the team. I am sure there is no better person than you to understand that because you know how impactful a person he is when he is around the group.
"I was watching 'The Test' on Amazon and he was around with you guys during the World Cup and I could think back and start imagining how he was with us (Mumbai Indians). He was pretty much the same, motivating the youngsters. He just felt like he was one of us, not the coaching staff. He was doing the same things. One good thing that stuck out about Ponting was that he would only go and talk to the younger guys. He was trying to make sure that all the youngsters in the squad are staying in that mental zone very well. His idea was to make sure that the youngsters don't drift away so much. And, so once we returned to Mumbai, things changed. I remember he gave us that pep talk and everything changed around that."
Asked about the challenges of bowling second under lights in Mumbai and how does he keep the boys motivated if he loses the toss there, Rohit admitted it was tough but also pointed out that they had won games batting first at the Wankhede.
"Especially at Mumbai, everyone's watching me at the toss" he said. "When I'm at the centre for the toss, I could see from my peripheral vision that guys all over me, they are watching me what's happening at the toss because the toss is so crucial. When I lose the toss, seriously they feel like that he's the worst guy in the world. They don't look at me, they don't talk to me for a second. Then that's where my job comes in, I get everyone together, our preparation starts much before the toss.
"I think it is important for the boys to know that toss is under no-one's control. We can't control the toss, so we have to play good cricket and if you look at Mumbai's record, we have won lot of games batting first at Wankhede. That's mainly because of the plans and strategies we put in place before the games and all the credit has to go to the coaching staff; whether it was Ponting, [Shane] Bond, they put in a lot of effort. Now Mahela [Jayawardene] is working with us, once we have the plans in place and in spite of that we lose a game it's fine. It happened to us when Chennai beat us year before last. We got 160 and they were 50/5 or something and then Dwayne Bravo came and started hitting and he got the game away very easily. We had the likes of [Jasprit] Bumrah and Mitch McClenaghan bowling towards the end.
"You don't expect Bumrah to give so many runs towards the end because he has handled that situation pretty well in the end but that was his off-day and Bravo got him. It's one of those days. What I'm trying to say here is that plans have been put in place and there are days when everything will not go according to the plan. So you don't get frustrated, you get everything together and come back the next day and try and focus on that."
Rohit recalled a funny incident with Shikhar Dhawan when the latter did not want to take strike in the Mumbaikar's second game as an ODI opener.
"I remember, it was way back in 2013, the day when I started opening for India in limited-overs, it was my 2nd game as an opener in Champions Trophy and I asked Shikhar [Dhawan] that we’re playing against South Africa who had bowlers like [Dale] Steyn, [Morne] Morkel and I haven’t faced them with the new ball, so, you take the strike. In reply Shikhar told me, that you've been playing for a while and this is my first tour so, I can’t. I was like really? a regular opener doesn’t want to take the strike and he wants me to take the strike. The first three balls were from Morne Morkel and to be honest I didn't see the ball, I was not expecting the bounce, I wasn’t ready for it and I didn’t know how the new ball would do, especially in England and I still remember it was absolutely cold that day. That was my 1st experience with Shikhar, but now we are comfortable."
Rohit also termed Dhawan as 'annoying' at times. "I am used to it now, for me it doesn’t matter, but imagine the first time I was opening and this guy (Shikhar Dhawan) comes and says I can’t take the strike. You know, sometimes he is very annoying, I'm setting up a plan, plotting against a bowler in the middle, we have to do this, do that and after five seconds he will be like ‘what did you say!!’. You’re under tremendous pressure in the middle of the game and this guy comes and kind of says all these things. It makes you frustrated, you just don’t know how to react."
But there were words of praise for the left-handed opener from Delhi as well with Rohit saying that Dhawan takes all the pressure off him with his flowing batting.
"I enjoy batting with him (Shikhar)," Rohit said. "The reason is he’s so elegant towards the off-side and he likes to take on the bowlers with the new ball and that allows me to take time because naturally I'm not an opener, so for me to find boundaries is not easy in the first 10 overs, which is why at times I like to go aerial and play those cross-batted shots which has has got me into trouble many a times, but Shikhar is so good with his hands on the off-side, if you look at the average boundaries that he hits, it is in the first 10 overs when the fielders are in, he likes to do that and I'm the opposite, once the field is spread and I can take singles and it makes my job easier as well when I'm batting with him."
When Warner asked him what was going through his mind when he scored those double-hundreds in ODIs, Rohit explained the thought-process behind planning his innings after getting to a 100.
"I don’t do that quite often, but honestly speaking, I feel once I get past 100 I feel I cannot get out unless I make a mistake. When you have scored a 100 you put a lot of pressure on the bowler, you’re seeing the ball nicely, you’re aware of the conditions and you know who’s not in great form in terms of bowling options at that point. With knowledge of all these, you try to figure out way and just try and get through that 10-20 runs. I always talk to myself that you can’t get out unless you make a mistake, so you just make sure that any bowler that is bowling to you, just try and find boundaries rather than scoring the big hits. I also know I'm not such a powerful hitter and it's better for me to pierce the field rather than clear the field. These are the options I calculate, I analyze a little bit and then sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t."