Dubai: It’s the relaxed aura about Rohit Sharma’s captaincy which fascinates Zaheer Khan, Director of Cricket Operations for Mumbai Indians, holders and four-time winners of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The flamboyant batsman, one of the giants of white ball cricket, has underlined his credentials as a captain in the shorter formats by being the most successful IPL captain with four titles.
‘‘What stands out (in Rohit’s captaincy) is the quality that he has of having the relaxed aura around him and yet he is a very intense and a serious thinker of the game. That shows when he makes those tactical calls on the field in pressure situations of the match and his teammates believe in him. I think that quality I will put right up to bring out the best in every one of his teammates,’’ Zaheer explained about his skipper’s qualities during an interactive session with the fans on the team’s Twitter account on Tuesday.
The Blue Shirts, who had moved into quarantine at the St. Regis Sadiyat Island off Abu Dhabi last Friday, are waiting for the period to end on Thursday before they can get down to practice. Meanwhile in Dubai, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals were the first teams to get a feel of the action at evening practice sessions at the ICC Academy.
‘Mumbai Paltan,’ as the Mumbai fans are known, grilled Zaheer on a number of issues relating to their forthcoming campaign - from the pace ace Trent Boult joining the squad to the challenge of adapting to the conditions in the UAE.
‘‘The Paltans should be excited that Boult is going to be a part of MI. He’s a fantastic bowler, world-class bowler and has got a terrific record. So we are all looking forward to him joining the squad as soon as possible and giving us those early breakthroughs which will set the tone for us,’’ said Zaheer, the highest wicket-taker during India’s successful 2011 World Cup campaign and one of the finest left-arm pace bowlers India has produced.
He’s (Trent Boult) a fantastic bowler, world-class bowler and has got a terrific record. So we are all looking forward to him joining the squad as soon as possible and giving us those early breakthroughs which will set the tone for us
A major point of concern for the fans seemed to be the fact that when the auction took place way back last December, the franchises made their acquisitions with the Indian conditions in mind. Asked how difficult it will be to adjust in the UAE conditions, Zaheer said: ‘‘Generally, preference is given to the home conditions and the squads are selected accordingly, but all the squads are usually well rounded. The MI squad is picked based on covering all the angles and the requirements of any given conditions. Mind you, we do play away games when we are back home. So yes, we will have to adapt to the conditions here and adapt quickly but we do have a well-rounded squad.’’
The idea of staying in a bio-bubble for two and-a-half months and give off their best in a draining tournament like the IPL can be a daunting one, but Zaheer feels it’s a matter of time before the players are used to it. ‘‘It’s just a matter of time that they get used to it. Being a professional cricketer, you have to understand and accept these challenges. I think this is the demand of the time, the demand of the new normal that we will have to get used to and deliver it on the field,’’ he said.
Finally, will they miss the Paltan, which makes Mumbai such an awesome force at home? ‘‘The experience this time is going to be different and yes, we will be missing our Paltan but we know they are supporting us through and through,’’ he added.