New Delhi: Rohit Sharma's success in the role of an opener has given a new lease of life to his international career and the promising batsman believes that the current run of form has been "the best and most satisfying phase" since he donned India colours.
"From the point of view of consistency, this has certainly been the best phase as an international cricketer. I am enjoying my new role as an opener. That I have been successful and my contribution has helped the team's cause makes it even more satisfying. I am hoping to keep up the good work," Sharma told PTI in an interview. In the 12 matches since he was asked to open, the talented 26-year-old Mumbaikar has scored five half-centuries apart from two near-50 scores and Sharma attributes it to the sound technique that he possesses.
"I was always confident about my technique. The opener's job is specialized one but I always knew that I could hold my own if I am given an opportunity at the top of the order. Also I have opened a couple of times in T20's for India, so it wasn't an entirely new experience," said Sharma, who scored a match-winning 83 against England in Mohali, on his maiden appearance as an opener. On his own admission, the offer to open the innings came suddenly to him.
"I wasn't exactly surprised but I knew that it would be challenging. But then in life, when challenges are thrown at you, you should believe in your instincts and go for it. The innings of 83 against England wasn't the best but certainly an effort that proved to be a morale booster for me," stated Sharma, who has scored 2459 runs in 98 ODIs with two centuries and 17 half-centuries. Asked about the change in ODI opener's role since two new balls are being used, he admitted that it is indeed a big challenge.
"The opener's role with two new balls coming into play has changed. It's no longer going after the bowling from the word 'go'. There are a few shots which should be avoided during the initial overs", he said. "For example, when the ball is pitched up, one would love to play drive but now it is better to be a bit watchful. Having said that, I am not saying that one shouldn't play his natural game," Sharma explained.
He has faced scathing criticism and intense media scrutiny after the initial failures but nothing has perturbed him. "When people said a lot of things, I was not really disturbed as I knew my ability. My job is to focus on my game and I try to do that. I can't stop someone from writing whatever he feels like. I would rather concentrate on my job and that is to score runs."
Sharma has captained Mumbai Indians to their maiden IPL triumph and leading the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Lasith Malinga has certainly helped him grow as a cricketer. "I won't say that leading someone like Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting made me conscious but certainly more responsible. The moment you become captain, you not only have to lead by example with your own performances but also be responsible for field placings and bowling changes. Responsibility always makes you a better cricketer," he opined. Sharma scored 538 runs, including four half-centuries, in 19 matches in the sixth edition of the IPL.
However, he was guarded about the fact when asked whether he would like to open in longer version in South Africa too since he has got some success in the shorter format. "I wouldn't like to make any comments on the South Africa tour. That's still some time away and I would like to wait and watch and only react to the situation. Let that situation arise," he concluded.