‘I don’t want to be called a faltu player’

Having earned his first Man of the Series in the recently concluded ODI leg of the Caribbean tour, Rohit Sharma seems a satisfied returnee with 257 runs and three fifties. Speaking to The Indian Express, Rohit credits his fantastic run to a much needed change in attitude, while confessing that the need to prove to himself that he belongs at this level motivated him to succeed. Excerpts.

How pleased are you with your Caribbean show?

I'm very happy with the way the West Indies tour unfolded, for I after all won my first Man of the Series. I was very pleased with my match winning efforts, and each of the three fifties that I scored. Before going on the tour I had a big responsibility on my shoulders. I'm satisfied with the way I dealt with it.

Explain the salient features of Rohit 2.0.

I don't think there is too much difference. Apart from the fact that I have just learned to convert my starts into a decent score. But I still have a long way to go, and learn how to convert my fifties into big ones. My priority as of now is to spend as much time as I can in the middle. That has always been my main area of concern, something I've struggled with in age-group cricket, during my India A days, and now with India.

Were you motivated by your past failures for the national team?

Most certainly. It was big disappointment for me not to be part of the World Cup squad. I had reached such a level of being a disappointment that I eventually told myself that 'enough is enough, it's time to prove I belong at this level'. I also wanted to stop people from saying that I'm a faltu cricketer, once and for all.

How tough was it to carry the burden of the middle-order, especially since the seniors were missing?

Like I said, it was a big responsibility on me. During the first team meeting, we discussed the role that I, and the middle-order, will have to play to beat the West Indies. Our openers were not experienced enough, so it was natural that (Suresh) Raina, Virat (Kohli) and I had to bat it out. It was our first tour after the World Cup win, and we were desperate to end up on the winning side.

Did you consciously stop playing in the air after the first few runs? Or did it just come naturally to you?

It came quite naturally to me. When the fielders were up at the start of my innings, I would push them back with a few aerial hits and then milk the bowling for singles. I have started planning out my innings thoroughly now, and play according to the situation. It's not like I keep massive goals like batting out the overs or scoring a century every time I go out to bat, I just keep in mind the smaller aspects of the game, such as rotating the strike. I've learnt to enjoy every ball the hard way.

Will maintaining this run of form be your next big challenge?

Yes, I think consistency will be the key, especially after the Man of the Series. Before leaving for the West Indies, Yuvraj Singh told me that my biggest test will come only after I taste success. Now that I've tasted it, I don't want to let go. I don't want to waste any more opportunities.

What about your Test cricket goal? How near or far are you from achieving it?

Playing Test cricket for India has been on my mind ever since I made it into the Indian team in 2007. I nearly made my debut (against South Africa in Nagpur), but got injured just hours before the match. No cricketer is complete until he plays Test cricket. I'm still hopeful to be part of the Test squad one day.

How different is Duncan Fletcher from Gary Kirsten?

Maybe because it is his first tour, but he is a very silent man. Everything he planned for us was executed in the one-day series and he told me that he was very happy with my effort. It will take him some time to adjust, so it is too early to comment on the change in guard.

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