Mumbai: Star India batsman Rohit Sharma said while the national cricket team members are disappointed at not being able to retain the World Cup, a new challenge awaits them in the form of the upcoming Indian Premier League.
India lost to eventual champions Australia by 95 runs in the semifinals of cricket’s showpiece event at Sydney and IPL franchise Mumbai Indians’ captain Rohit said the focus was now solely on winning the eighth season of the cash-rich Twenty20 tournament. “It was disappointing not to bring the World Cup back, but once we got back to India we knew a new challenge was lying in front of us, which was the IPL. Now we are thinking about how to win the championship,” said Rohit at a media conference here on Sunday ahead of the IPL, starting on April 8.
The Indian opener, who has two one-day double hundreds to his credit, said although the Indian team had stayed for around four months in Australia, everyone was now prepared mentally and physically for two months of IPL. “I am perfectly ready. IPL schedule is released well in advance. So everyone knew we had to compete soon after spending four months in Australia, so all of us are prepared mentally. I don’t think anyone is mentally tired because ultimately, as players, we want to do well in every tournament we play. It is an opportunity, another big platform for all of us to perform,” said Rohit.
Mumbai Indians, champions in 2013, are all set to take on the defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening game of the T20 tournament at the Eden Gardens and he was gung-ho about the chances of his team. “They (KKR) have got the bowling line up and are defending champions. We have to be at our best. Obviously being the first game pressure will be on both sides to perform. They play well in Kolkata and understand the conditions really well. We got the squad, the batting line up to overcome that situation.
“We have roped in a lot of young Indian talent in the players’ auction. It looks a very well balanced squad. We have had a very good preparation ahead of this IPL season. We hope that all youngsters deliver during the tournament,” he said.
Rohit was also happy that Mumbai’s first game was in Kolkata, where they had beaten Chennai Super Kings in the 2013 final. “We have had very good memories of Kolkata. We won the championship there. We understand the conditions there very well. Am sure the guys can exploit the conditions well. It will be an important opening game for us. It will be important to get the first win of the tournament and build that momentum and continue from there,” he said.
Team’s head coach and former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting said the team has had a good preparation fir IPL. “We have a great challenge ahead. We are heading to play Kolkata, the reigning champions, for the first game of the IPL on their home ground. So far this week’s been great. Our preparation has been great. I really love the attitude of our players,” said Ponting, who played in one IPL season without much success and then stepped down from the Mumbai captaincy.
“We have two training days in Kolkata to make sure that they are up to speed with the conditions and the way we want to play our cricket as a team. In IPL, when you are getting most of your players into the squad reasonably late, that is a great challenge for the coaches to make sure they are physically rested and mentally prepared for the contest at the same time.
“You have to make sure their skills are ready to go as well. We have had a really big training week where we have particularly worked hard and when we get to Kolkata, we know we have got two more sessions over there to prepare for the first game. The attitude that the boys have shown over the last few days, I have no doubt they will be prepared for the start of the first match,” he added.
Ponting said that his new innings in cricket as a coach has been exciting. “The last week’s been terrific. Obviously I have known that I will be the coach of Mumbai Indians for a few months now. I had the time to plan and think about how I wanted to coach the team. I took over when the squad was pretty much established; 15-16 players were retained from last season. It was a lot of fun to be involved in the players’ auction. There also we have a very good squad. We have picked a lot of young Indian talents into our group,” he said.
“My job as coach of MI is to make sure they have got everything exactly the way the captain wants it. I have got to get players organised and make sure that their skills are good and more importantly they are in a positive frame of mind.
“Although I was not a very good T20 player, the best thing is that I understand the game pretty well. I have been around for a long time. The fact is I was here in IPL 6 (2013 season), started the tournament, but did not play really well. So that was when I actually went into a bit of coaching role when I stepped down from playing and that turned out to be pretty well,” Ponting said.
“And for the last two years, I have been commentating on T20 back in Australia. So I have stayed really close to the game, am understanding the way the game is played, understanding more and more the tactical side of the game,” he explained. Ponting also said that looking at the game from outside gives a new perspective.
“When you take a step back from playing, you analyse the game a lot closer, considering a lot of tactical sides of the game. That’s the sort of stuff I have been working to bring in to Mumbai Indians this year. I have been responsible for the tactical side of things, the planning side of things and as I said, making sure the planning is as best as it can be and we have our players 100 per cent prepared for anything that might pop up during a game,” he said.