It was the end of February 2020, and the world hadn’t yet come to terms with the full fury of the Covid-19 virus. Travel in India hadn’t stopped and masks weren’t a feature of our lives just yet. It was India before corona. Rohit Sharma could still walk around in his hotel in Bengaluru posing for photographs with fans, and there was sanity all round. He wouldn’t have to sanitise hands following every handshake, and a hug was the norm and not an exception. In all this normal, however, there was something that wasn’t.

There was a degree of restlessness in Rohit, which we found out when we met him for a conversation close to the end of his rehab at the NCA on 25 February 2020. Rohit had hurt his hamstring in New Zealand that ended his tour even before he could play his first overseas Test as an opener. He was in red hot form in the white ball leg of the tour and just a few months earlier had scored five hundreds in the 2019 World Cup, the highest ever by any batsman in world cup history. To get injured yet again when in such form was terribly unfortunate.

It was the first time we were seeing Rohit since that fateful day in Manchester in July 2019, and it was expected that the conversation would turn to the World Cup at some point. “The five hundreds really don’t mean much anymore,” Rohit said in a very matter of fact manner. “Personally it was a great
achievement, but when you are playing a team sport, it is never about personal milestones. When I reached home after the World Cup and everyone was congratulating me for the hundreds, I can honestly tell you I did not feel any elation. The real prize was in the England dressing room and it was difficult to accept that we had not made the final,” lamented Rohit. It had been seven months, and it still rankled. Rohit Sharma was yet to get over the disappointment of that cloudy day in Old Trafford.

As he was getting miked up for the interview, a rare one hour conversation which wasn’t eventually broadcast because of Covid, Rohit was mumbling something to himself. He seemed a little distracted, and we couldn’t make sense of what was going on. Seeing us slightly anxious, he smiled and said “World Cup jeetna hai. We have three World Cups in the next three years and we must win a world tournament. This is one obsession we have to fulfil.”

It was a kind of self-introspection and admonishment. He was speaking to himself more than he was speaking to us. He is desperate to win a world event, and it was as if his legacy as a cricketer depended on it.

He is one of the finest cricketers of his generation. Rohit is a leader and for someone of his calibre it is never about individual glory. As one of the most successful captains in franchise cricket, Rohit knows how to win and for him to come close multiple times and yet not have a fifty-over WC title to show for is not something he can accept.

“Unless we win a world title in the next couple of years, I will be very disappointed,” he was forthright.

Published with with permission from Mission Domination: An Unfinished Quest by Boria Majumdar and Kushan Sarkar, Simon & Schuster India.