Rohit: ‘We haven’t got the results in World Cups but that doesn’t mean we were playing bad cricket’

India haven’t won a T20 World Cup since their success in the inaugural edition in 2007. In the last edition, they couldn’t qualify for the knockouts despite being one of the favourites. But, according to Rohit Sharma, that is not evidence of the team’s “conservative cricket” in the format. In fact, he said, the team management has given the players the freedom to play freely.

“We haven’t got the results in the World Cups but that doesn’t mean we were playing bad cricket for so many years,” Rohit said the day before the first T20I against West Indies. “I don’t agree that we were playing conservative cricket. If you lose an odd game in the World Cup, it seems we were doing things wrong and we didn’t take chances. But if you look [at it], we won probably 80% [71%] of our games leading into the World Cup. If you are conservative, you won’t win these many games.

“Yes, we didn’t qualify [for the knockouts in 2021], but that happens. It doesn’t mean we were not playing freely. Lately also we haven’t made any such changes; we are playing in the same manner but we have given the freedom to the players to play their game. Because if you play freely, you will get the performances.

“So those who are outside should have patience. The way we are playing, there will be failures and the results may not always go our way. But that doesn’t mean the players are not good enough, or the team is not good enough. It’s just that we are trying to do something new. With time, everyone has to change. We are changing and those on the outside should also change the way they think.”

“I am sure he will start his work soon, will start talking to the players and get their thoughts as well. And yeah, we are very excited to have him in the squad. I genuinely feel that he can make a difference in this team”

Rohit Sharma on Paddy Upton

One way to make players bat freely, Rohit said, was to ask them to bat as if they were playing for their franchises or state teams, and not think too much about the results.

“We can talk about technique and all during the preparation but in the match, players should be given the freedom,” he said. “We are telling them to play the way they play for their franchise or state. There they don’t take much pressure, so here also they need to do the same. Of course, international cricket has a different pressure but it’s our [the team management’s] job to reduce that pressure and, if possible, completely eliminate it. So we are trying to give the boys that environment where they play freely and don’t think too much about their performance.”

Another thing the team is focusing on is creating the right environment. They have brought back mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, whose inclusion, Rohit felt, could “make a difference”.

“On the field, we anyway play as a unit, but it is also important that off the field too players stay together, have fun together, pull each other’s legs,” he said. “That’s something which creates a good team environment. So our focus is on that as well, how we can keep the environment light and enjoy ourselves.

“I think his [Upton’s] inclusion in the squad will help all of us. He has got so much experience working with different teams at different places. He will definitely bring the mental side of the game into the picture. He has worked with the Indian team before. He was part of the 2011 World Cup-winning team and he has had some success in franchise cricket as well.

“He knows a lot of our players as well, he has worked with them closely. The mental side of the game, as we know, is very, very important. With his experience, with his ideology, I think it’s going to help us.

“It’s [only] his second or third day with the team. He is probably just observing the guys he hasn’t worked with. I am sure he will start his work soon, will start talking to the players and get their thoughts as well. And yeah, we are very excited to have him in the squad. I genuinely feel that he can make a difference in this team.”

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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