The Indian cricket team will take on New Zealand in a much-anticipated Cricket World Cup 2023 Semi Final encounter in Mumbai on Wednesday. When the two teams last met in the knockout stages of the Cricket World Cup, New Zealand emerged victorious and fans have their concern regarding the pressure that the Rohit Sharma-led side will be under in front of a home crowd. However Rohit made it clear that the focus of the side is completely on winning and even came up with a 1983 World Cup reference to point out that records will not play a major role.
Rohit Sharma had a blunt answer when asked about the pressure on the Indian cricket team ahead of the Cricket World Cup 2023 semifinal against New Zealand
"Yes. Look, from the first game to the last game, the last game we played in Bangalore, be it a league match, semi-final or final, whenever you play a World Cup game, there is always pressure. This is obvious because the World Cup is a World Cup, that's why there is pressure. But we have handled that pressure very well in the last 9 games. From the first game to the last game we played in Bangalore, the boys gave a good response. We were only focused on our game. We wanted to play good cricket. What we did," he said.
"In the future also, we will focus on playing good cricket. Because in India, if you are an Indian cricketer, then whatever the format, whatever the tournament, there is always pressure. Because you hear the same voice from everywhere that we have to win the match tomorrow. We have to score 100 runs. We have to take 5 wickets."
"So, all these guys, whether they have played 200-250 matches or 5 or 10 matches, they have to go through all this. So, I think in terms of pressure, it becomes mandatory for Indian cricketers. There is pressure, but we have tried so hard in all these years to keep that aside and focus more on our game, strategy, and the way we play."
"Because what happens from outside will always continue and will not stop. We need to focus on the game and focus on the challenges that will come from the opposition," the Indian captain added.
Rohit Sharma also talked about the difference in the bowling options they have had before the start of the World Cup and at this moment.
"We wanted to change our combination when Hardik got injured. Before that, from the first game we tried to get the rest of the players to bowl. It was important to get the situation right. In the last game, we got the situation where we could try some things. So, it's good. I mean, there are options, but I hope we don't need them," Rohit Sharma said.
When the media asked the Indian Captain about their recent ICC knockout history as they have struggled a lot in those big stages, Rohit gave straight forward answers. He put some exciting points on the table by giving an excellent example.
"Honestly, I mean look, that's the beauty of this team. Half of the guys were not even born when we won our first World Cup. And then when we won our second World Cup in 2011, half of the guys were not even playing the game," the Indian Captain stated.
"I mean, for us, this current crop of players, they're very much into what is happening today, what can happen tomorrow. Those are the things they try and focus on. I don't see them talking about how we won the last World Cup, how we won our first World Cup. The focus is on how they can get better as a player, what they can bring to the team and what are the things they need to improve. So that's the beauty of the crop of players we have at this point in time. The focus is always on the present. And that, I believe, is a very, very good thing. Going into a tournament like this, from game number one, the focus has always been on what we can achieve today. What you achieve today sets you up for what you can achieve tomorrow. So, I think the crop of players that we have is very much focused on that process," he further added.
Does Rohit Sharma get time to reflect on his journey and how special it is for him to represent India in the Semi-Final of the World Cup?
"I don't think there's so much time to think about it. The focus is on the game, and what we have in hand tomorrow. I seriously have no time to think about my journey, and what it has been in the past. Probably after 19 November I will think about it. Right now, it is just business and pure business of getting the job done for the team," he said.
"It is such a high-profile tournament everybody is watching. You want to display good cricket as Indian team, and that is what we've done in this tournament so far, which is very, very good. But again, we know the importance of this week. For us, we don't really have to change too much, being that same mindset as we were before the start of the World Cup," he further added.
Rohit Sharma is just two games away from winning the World Cup as a captain. So how does he reflect on that?
"The first of the tournament, if you see, I think we chased the first five games and then the next four games we batted first. So, I think in terms of the areas that we wanted to cover, I think we've covered almost every bit of it. But again, like I said, we do understand the importance of this week, but for us I don't think we need to do anything different from what we've been doing in this tournament."There will be challenges thrown at you at different stages of the game. You just got to respond. You just got to front up and get through that situation," Rohit said.
How much Kuldeep has come on as a player, and what's the difference between 2019 Kuldeep and the present version of him?
"Kuldeep obviously missed out on a few games in between, but since he's made a comeback, you see a different sort of Kuldeep in terms of his attitude, wants to front the situation, front the challenge, take the responsibility upon him. All those kind of things I can clearly see with him. He is not afraid to get hit because, like you mentioned, that particular game was a perfect example where the batters were trying to put him under pressure. But he eventually got those couple of wickets for us."
"With him, it doesn't matter that he goes for runs, but his job, he knows that he has to go out there and get the team into good situations, try for breakthroughs if there's a partnership. And yeah, he's not afraid of getting hit. And that's the beauty of spin bowling."
"If you are afraid, things do not fall in place in terms of the strategy of the team as well. You don't mind getting hit in a few overs, but the will to come back and finish off really strong is what matters. And that is what he did in Dharamshala. They were in a good position at one point and they probably ended up getting 270-280 between that. So that was a good comeback in the last 10 overs."
"I mean like we always say, the game is not over till the last ball is bowled. So even though you get hit for a few boundaries, few sixes here and there, in few overs, there are 10 overs, 60 balls that you have to bowl and you have to come back. And that is the attitude that Kuldeep has, even if he is put under pressure at the beginning, he knows he has to come back and he will come back," Rohit Sharma explained.
What have Rohit Sharma been impressed by New Zealand's play?
"Yeah, look, I mean, overall, whenever we've come up against New Zealand, obviously, probably the most disciplined team in terms of how they want to play the game. And they play their cricket very smartly. They understand the opposition quite well. Having played with a lot of our players in different stages of their careers, and different tournaments, they do understand the mentality of the opposition. It is the same for us as well.
"Whenever we've played against them, the most disciplined team, I would say. And they've been very consistent for so many years now, playing semifinals and the finals of probably all ICC tournaments in the last, I don't know, maybe six, seven years, from 2015 onwards, if I'm not wrong," Rohit Sharma stated.
"So yeah, and we do understand what they bring to the table and how they play their cricket. We have been closely following all the teams as to where their strength lies, where their weakness lies. And based on that, we try and go out there and play the game," he added.