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Rohit's challenge of sustaining the successful "head space"



Five hundreds in a World Cup - it's a record unprecedented, and a run of form that is both awe-inspiring and puzzling. Even his captain poses the question of how it feels in a video for It's no surprise that everyone wants a bit of Rohit Sharma at the moment. From Southampton to Leeds, via Manchester and Birmingham, his hundreds have lit up India's run to the semifinal. Each of it has come in varied conditions, and circumstances. And yet, there's a feeling that Rohit is simply playing a long, unfinished Test innings. Sanjay Bangar, India's batting coach, feels that Rohit understands his own game a lot better now. He too calls it a 'template' and adds to the impression that this Rohit-run is all a part of one big solid block of form.

It'd better not reach Rohit's ears. For he's not approaching it as one single big innings, he's doing the exact opposite of that. He doesn't want to hear about his own knock, he insists, to the point of pleading. Not while the tournament is going on. He's thought about this format before, and how he'd want to approach playing nine league games before the knockouts.

This is how he sums it up: "As soon as the game got away, I left everything behind and started focusing on the new day, which I think really helped me moving forward. And it did work here, but I don't know if it's going to work in the future as well, because every tournament is different."

He's striving to be in a good 'head space'. It was the advice that Yuvraj Singh passed on to him when Rohit had mentioned that the big scores were not coming for him in the IPL. Yuvraj, who Rohit refers to as an elder brother, had gone through a similar patch before the 2011 World Cup and passed on a simple message that had worked for him. It is why Rohit loves mentioning that having his family around is a welcome distraction during the tournament.

But this is the World Cup, and with the kind of following that Indian cricketers have all through the world, Rohit's plan of cocooning himself has not been easy. He pretends to not understand the question when records or numbers are thrown at him during press conferences or waives off references of previous games as 'forgotten about that'.

Staying in this 'head space' is proving to be almost a bigger challenge than the ones he's getting on the field.

Like while facing Sri Lanka for instance, Rohit knows exactly what is needed in the chase. The hard ball is easier to get boundaries off, so he flies away in the powerplay. Simultaneously, he's also playing senior partner to perfection as it allows KL Rahul to find his own zone. He'll pull like a dream when there are repeated gifts on offer, he'll calculatively put pressure early on the spinner by lofting him for sixes. These buttons need no switching on for Rohit. It's all there in the template that Bangar alludes to.

But it's getting to this point which remains comically challenging for Rohit. There's still a lot of earnestness when he says the team logistics need to be better, "...because a lot of people are staying in the same hotel as us who want us to win the World Cup, who want us to score runs, score centuries. So you kind of want to stay away from all of that because eventually, our job is to do that, our job is to come here, play good cricket and win the World Cup, we all know that.

"But constantly yapping in anyone's ear is not right. So I think for us as cricketers, it's important for us to just completely put that away and focus on the job at hand."

He even has a specific time to read Whatsapp messages from friends, family and well-wishers. "Not on the game [day], the next day, when I'm traveling on the bus. I want to stay away from all of that and enjoy the beautiful weather in England," he says at one point during the press interaction.

The struggle, for Rohit, is in getting this off-field and on-field equation right. It helps that he's firm about the bigger picture. "It's our duty, it's our job just to come out fresh and get the job done again on the first day."

He mumbles something about team goals to the question asked by Kohli, he won't even get into the debate of whether he's now in the best phase of his career. "No not yet," he says. "If we win the World Cup then probably I would."

7/8/2019 9:21 PM

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