No threat to the game at 50, says Rohit Sharma

India captain Rohit Sharma has dismissed speculation over the future of one-day international cricket and believes all three formats of the sport are important. Sharma has risen to prominence with feats in the 50-year-old game and believes all three versions can co-exist.

“Mera naam hi one day cricket se bana hai. Sab bekar ki baatein hai (I first made a name for myself in one day cricket. This is all talk). People were talking earlier about the cricket test (being in danger),” Sharma said on the sidelines of a promotional event.

“For me, cricket is important – whatever the format. I would never say ODI is ending or T20 is ending or testing is coming to an end. I wish there was another format too, because for me playing the game is the most important thing. Since childhood, we dreamed of playing the game for India. Every time we play ODIs the stadiums are full, the excitement stays high. It’s an individual choice as to which format to play or not, but for me all three formats are important.

Sharma will fly to Dubai where India will bid to win the Asian Cup for a record eighth time when the tournament begins with the India v Pakistan contest on August 28. It will be the first clash between the sides since India’s 10-wicket thrashing at the ICC T20 World Cup in Dubai last year, but according to Sharma things will be different this time.

“We played Pakistan last year in Dubai where obviously the result was not our way. But the team is playing differently now and preparing differently so a lot has changed since then. But for us we have to assess the conditions, keep in mind that we will be playing in over 40 degrees (temperatures) We have to assess all of these factors and prepare accordingly.

Rohit Sharma during an Adidas promotional event in Mumbai. (PhotoExpress)

Sharma said the team focused on the things they needed to do as a unit and what they were looking to accomplish. “Similarly, in the Asian Cup, we will focus on what to achieve as a team and not on who we are up against – be it Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. As a team, we are working on a few points before the Asian Cup. We have to continue the process.”

When asked if the Indian team had found their best combination for the T20 World Cup, he replied: “There are still about two and a half months left for the T20 World Cup. Before that we have the Asian Cup and two home series against Australia and South Africa. More or less, 80-90% of your team is ready. There could be three or four changes, or none at all, depending on the conditions. From now on we have played in India and will be playing in the United Arab Emirates, so the conditions in Australia will be different. We need to check what suits our team in Australia.

Long-term vision

The Indian team has already started preparing for the future. Sharma said he spoke to head coach Rahul Dravid and they started building strength off the bench. “(Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohd) Shami and all these guys won’t be with the Indian team forever so you have to try to prepare the other guys. Myself and Rahul bhai talked about how we are going to create our bench strength because that’s going to be very crucial considering the amount of cricket we play, considering the injury factors and everything we never want to be a team that relies on one or two individuals, we want to be a team where everyone can contribute and help the team win on their own. We want to be that kind of team and that’s why we want to give young people as many opportunities as possible and of course you have players seniors around them. They can be a big help,” Sharma pointed out.

Rohit sharma, IND vs. WI Indian Captain Rohit Sharma with Hardik Pandya. (AP Photo)

The proliferation of franchise leagues around the world has prompted many players to quickly leave their national duties. But Sharma said that for him playing for the country was most important. “I don’t know what people think about playing in leagues rather than international cricket. There will be 10 more leagues but in the years to come we will know what the players prefer. But from now on, the Indian cricket situation remains the same – we play IPL, international cricket.

Playing for the country is always the ultimate goal, he felt.

“Guys are coming forward and our goal is to create a bench force, that’s why in Zimbabwe there are a lot of players who are touring for the first time – whether it’s Shahbaz Ahmed, Rahul Tripathi – and that’s good exposure. They’re really talented and will rise to the occasion. It’s all about gaining confidence at this stage, and I’m sure they will learn. Playing for the country matters the most.