T20 World Cup: Hectic Super 8 schedule not a problem for Rohit Sharma

Two-time champions England and West Indies face off on the opening day of the stage at St Lucia tomorrow

Rohit Sharma (photo: ICC)
Rohit Sharma (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The T20 World Cup tournament has, after a bit of a chequered run over the last two weeks in the US, finally moved lock, stock and barrel to some of the best-known locations in the West Indies.

The business end of the tournament will be held in its entirety in the Indies, now, with a double header kicking off the Super Eight stages on Wednesday, 19 June.

The Caribbeans and reigning champions England, the only two teams to have two World T20 titles apiece, will face off at St Lucia on the opening day of a tightly scheduled Super Eight stage. South Africa, meanwhile, take on surprise qualifiers USA in Antigua in the other game of the day.

As for Rohit Sharma’s men, who topped their group with some gritty contests despite sharing points with Canada due to a washout, they will play their first game against spunky Afghanistan on Thursday (20 June), followed by one against Bangladesh on 22 June, and then the highly billed clash against Australia on 24 June. This means three matches in five days, but Sharma says they are used to such hectic schedules these days.

“It’s going to be a little hectic, but we’re used to all of this. We travel a lot, we play a lot. So that’s never going to be an excuse,’’ the veteran said as his team sweated it out at the Kensington Oval in Barbados, home of Sir Gary Sobers, on Monday, 17 June.

“We’ll look to focus a lot more on our skills and what we need to do as a team rather than what others are doing. Every (practice) session then becomes really important... [we need] to make the best use of it,” said the 37-year-old, for whom this will certainly be the last bow in a T20 World Cup tournament at least.

Incidentally, a young Rohit Sharma was a member of M.S. Dhoni’s champion squad in the inaugural World T20 in South Africa in 2007. The wheel comes full circle if he can do an encore in the Caribbean.

“There’s real keenness in the group to go and do something special," he told BCCI media. "That’s a good way to start the second stage of the tournament.”

While the team went about their business beneath the shadow of a giant cutout of Sir Gary, the focus of the travelling Indian media was riveted to the nets, where Virat Kohli launched into some crisp pulls and drives against a Jasprit Bumrah operating at full throttle.

Playing as an opener in the showpiece for the first time, Kohli has fallen for four, one and duck in his three innings so far. However, the Indian camp tried to brush aside any concerns over his form as Vikram Rathour, their batting coach said: ‘’It doesn’t worry us at all that Kohli hadn’t got runs in the games in the US. He has been batting beautifully at the nets and he looks all the more hungry."

“It clearly shows that everybody wants to make a difference and we take our skill sessions quite seriously. There’s something to achieve at every skills session that you do. And after we play our first game, we’ll play our next two games in a span of 3–4 days,’’ Sharma said.

Incidentally, India travelled to the West Indies after their group stage in the USA, while teams like Afghanistan and Australia have had the benefit of playing in the West Indies during the first round itself. This was, however, not a concern for Rohit Sharma.

“We’ve seen a lot of games here, we’ve played a lot of games here. Everyone understands what we need to do to get the result in our favour,’’ Sharma said, adding: “Everyone’s looking forward [to it] and quite excited.”

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