EXCLUSIVE: Cricket star speaks with Asian Express ahead of T20 World Cup
On 15th March 2016, the eyes of the cricketing world will focus in on the New VCA Stadium as India take to the field against New Zealand to kick off the ICC 2016 World Twenty20 tournament.
In front of an expectant home crowd, India will look to win the highly sought after trophy for the first time since the inaugural 2007 tournament.
Key to any of the nation’s success will be the form of opening batsman, Rohit Sharma, who is currently enjoying life at the wicket in the Asia Cup.
Speaking to the Asian Express newspaper earlier this week, the big hitter said he was eager for the commencement of the tournament and to bring smiles to the faces of India’s cricket-mad population.
“There is always pressure playing for India our fans rightfully expect a lot from the team,” he said.
“It’s pressure but it’s excitement at the same time. We want to succeed. We want to play good cricket for them and bring smiles to their faces.”
He continued: “Preparation so far has been going really well and it’s going to be exciting times playing in the world cup in front of our home crowd so I can’t wait.
“I hope it will be a good one for all of us.”
Sharma is one of the world’s top batsmen, smashing 1,204 runs in his 54 T20 internationals to date.
Alongside the likes of Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, it is clear to see why the hosts are considered ‘favourites’ by many to lift the world title on 3rd April.
Sharma, however, insists he and his international teammates will not be taking any one in their group for granted, after being drawn against New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan.
“It’s a very tough group,” he said. “These teams are playing some really good cricket at the moment so it will be a challenge playing them.
“If you look at New Zealand’s recent performances over the past few years, they have been really great. They are a different side now and look like they are playing as a unit – that is always good for any team, when you play like one and you get the results you deserve.
“Pakistan obviously will be a very interesting game. The match has always been a big game, especially for the spectator.
“We need to look at it like just another game of cricket but for people back home in India they will be more excited than us, for sure.
“Australia is one of the teams to beat, so to have all three teams plus one of the qualifiers will be a tough group, there is no doubt about it. But we are up for it.
“We will make sure these teams have a hard time against us and they will know they are playing against a top quality side.”
India suffered heartbreak in the final of the last T20 World Cup two years ago when they were defeated by underdogs Sri Lanka in the final.
The loss ensured India’s wait for a T20 world title would extend to at least nine years.
Sharma scored 29 runs in the 2014 final and finished fourth in the most runs table. Speaking about match preparation for the 2016 tournament, he says ‘consistency is key’.
He said: “My routine has always been the same through all Twenty20 matches.
“I don’t take note of the opposition as a whole but I do read into the bowlers a lot. I want to understand them, what they do and how that could affect my game.
“We have a good video analyser with the national squad and I spend around 40-45 minutes with him behind the scenes to prepare. What length and line they are bowling can be crucial to our game.”
A T20 World medal is the aim for Sharma and few would back against it, but who would be the perfect final?
In 2007, India played Pakistan for the coveted trophy in South Africa. The atmosphere was like ‘being in India’ according to Sharma and one he would like to recreate this time around.
“I don’t mind playing any team really, it is just exciting because it is the world cup final,” he added.
“I think maybe India Pakistan would be great for people back home. We played them in 2007 in the World Cup and we had a feeling that we were in India, even though we were in South Africa.
“So many people flew down from India to watch that game, so it was like a home game for us. That’s what it does, the India Pakistan game, it brings a lot of crowds, it brings a lot of joy.”
First round matches for the ICC World Twenty20 begin on 8th March before the group stages commence one week later.
Sky Sports will show every ball of the ICC World Twenty20 as part of a year round schedule of live cricket.