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Quest to win 2023 World Cup driving Rohit Sharma 2.0

The Times of India logo The Times of India 22-09-2021 K Shriniwas Rao
a close up of a man © Provided by The Times of India

MUMBAI: What if Rohit Sharma was a man easily satisfied? What if he had kept telling himself he already has everything he ever wanted and all he must do now is play another couple of years of good white-ball cricket, probably win another IPL title or two, and happily retire.

You couldn't have blamed him. Three double-hundreds in One-day cricket make him one of the most prominent 50-over batsmen ever. Five IPL titles make him one of T20's finest captains. With all the riches Indian cricket has to offer, and for someone who leads IPL's fanciest franchise, Rohit could've settled for the obvious.

He didn't have to block those 140-plus kmph darts from Cummins, didn't have to wrack his brains facing Anderson. IPL was coming, followed by a T20 World Cup, another IPL, another T20 World Cup, another IPL, and then the 50-over World Cup. He was set.

Why get ugly with that red ball? Facing 256 balls in a Test innings will hardly help him buy an apartment in South Mumbai or help him plan his daughter's future. T20 alone has given him more than he could have ever wished for. That's because that's who Rohit Sharma has turned into over the years - the white-ball sorcerer who now understands, more than anything else, that red-ball magic alone instills cricketing glory. He knows it now.

He knows that despite being the highest scorer at the 2019 50-over World Cup with 648 runs and five centuries, what Team India will be remembered for is losing to New Zealand in the semifinals. A World Cup win, a Test match hundred, earning an opposition's respect - the few things that count.

It is this quest driving Rohit Sharma 2.0. A man who wants to make the most between the present and October 2023 - when India host the 50-over World Cup. It'll be 12 years to 2011 - the lost opportunity of not making it to the squad that pains him no end.

Rohit has been working on a blueprint for a while now and there's a larger plan: To ensure Team India comes ahead of everything else over the next 24 months. Those who have his ear at the Mumbai Indians say: "We (the franchise) keep India first. He's keeping India first. The World Cup is scheduled after the IPL. Every single aspect of his workload will be managed from a precautionary POV keeping his Team India objectives in mind".

Rohit sitting out of the first game between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Sunday wasn't a last-minute call because of any niggle. He will time and again keep taking these breaks when required and it's part of that larger plan. Before we head there, some news: Rohit will play MI's second game versus the Knight Riders on Thursday because it's the tournament's business end.

Team India aspirations, Rohit has underlined for himself, must come ahead of everything else - his personal aspirations, his IPL franchise, his otherwise insouciant lifestyle. He knows the BCCI and team management will expect this of him, more than ever, especially if he were to be considered for white-ball captaincy. Can he lead by example and make fitness his greatest strength, not a detectable shortcoming, the coming 24 months?

For a cricketer who wants to play and excel in all three formats he's laid down a blueprint. He will pick his matches; look at quality, not quantity; raise the bar. For a cricketer perennially looking for motivation, the BCCI hasn't yet dangled the proverbial carrot at him. Should the board do so, it'll only be another shot in the arm.

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