Coming off a century against Railways, Rohit Sharma spoke to The Indian Express about his batting, his goals and life outside the national side.
The Hyderabad connection inevitably comes up each time Rohit Sharma gets ready to play a match here. The 22-year-old Mumbai batsman has his roots here, and is also a part of the Deccan Chargers outfit in the IPL.
However, all he would be hoping for as Mumbai prepare for their Ranji Trophy Super League match at this venue is that the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium proves as lucky for him over the next four days as it has in the past.
The last time he played a Ranji game at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium in Hyderabad, he got a century in each innings - a match-winning contribution in last year's final against Uttar Pradesh.
Things have changed since then though: the future of Indian cricket at that point, he lost his place in the shorter formats having failed to make the most of his opportunities. He has also dropped down the pecking order as far as a Test spot goes, and Sharma knows he has a lot to prove in the season ahead.
Coming off a century against Railways, he spoke to The Indian Express about his batting, his goals and life outside the national side.
How crucial was the century against Railways in the last match?
It was one of my more satisfying innings. The conditions were difficult, and the pitch wasn't batsman-friendly. I played with the tail-enders and helped Mumbai take the lead and that was the most important thing for me. People were saying I couldn't play a long innings, and I was happy that I was able to play 220 balls. It was an achievement for me to play so patiently.
Have you set yourself any goals for this season?
I never set goals for myself. A lot has changed since last season, but right now I'm only thinking about the next game. It's easy to say 'I'll score five or six centuries in the Ranji Trophy', but in reality it's difficult. It's better not to think of the future. If I do, it affects my batting.
How did you react to getting dropped from the team?
When I was in the team, I realised how tough it was to play for long at the top level. International cricket is hard enough, and apart from that you are competing with others for your place. I'm not the first player to get dropped, every cricketer goes through this. I know that when I make my comeback, I will be an improved cricketer. I have learnt a lot after being left out of the team.
Did you take your place in the Indian side for granted?
I really don't know, I always gave it my best shot. Nobody takes things for granted. I wasn't there to have fun. I have learnt from my mistakes. I'm concentrating harder these days and working on the mental aspect of my game. There is no problem in my technique or skills.
Did you ever sit and analyse where things went wrong?
I threw away my wicket too often after getting good starts and I'm trying to tackle that by concentrating harder. There is a process that I have to follow. Paddy Upton is helping me, so is the NCA. I'm working on fitness too.
Do you feel your off-field activities had an impact on your game?
No, that's all people's perception. One thing I have learnt is that people will keep criticising. It will never stop. I don't care what people's perceptions about me are. Even the legends of cricket have been criticised, I'm a nobody on that list! As an Indian cricketer, criticism comes for free. My job is to play well, that's it.