History is meant to teach us about the future but Rohit Sharma, India’s vice-captain, prefers to live firmly in the present.
Sharma averages more than 60 against Australia but insists that will count for nothing when the two sides clash in one of the most eagerly-anticipated league games at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
On the all-time list of Indian ODI run scorers only Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni average more while Sharma scored an unbeaten 122 to secure a straightforward six-wicket win against South Africa in his team’s opening match, ticking off the 228 target with 15 balls to spare.
“The past is past,” he said. “What’s gone before means nothing, it’s just about being better on the day, nothing else.
“I will not look back, it gives you confidence but it’s just about tomorrow, not the history. Self-belief has played a big part in these past five or six years, I know I can get the job done for the team.
“I don’t look at records or milestones or where I am in rankings, it’s just about playing well and doing a good job for the team. Perhaps there will be external rewards but that’s for the end of my career, not now.”
However, Sharma’s swaggering innings against the Proteas was an ominous statement of intent for Aaron Finch’s Australia, who came from two games down to win the recent five match series in India.
Since the last World Cup he averages 63 and he is now third, relegating Sourav Ganguly, on the list of Indian one-day centurions, behind only Sachin Tendulkar and Kohli.
So when Finch talked up the importance of early wickets at his pre-match press conference, you know exactly who he was thinking about.
India have won just five of their 15 ODI matches at The Oval – another stat Sharma swats aside with the disdain he treated South Africa’s bowlers – while he insists the recent defeat to Australia should not be overplayed either.
“We’ve got a good rivalry, we played some really good cricket there and they played really well in India. We just need to focus on the basics and then everything will follow,” he added.
“I was happy with my performance against South Africa, I had to curb my natural instincts and play to the conditions and that gives me immense satisfaction. It wasn’t my best innings but it was one of my best innings.”
Australia struggled against a rejuvenated West Indian pace attack at Trent Bridge, fighting back from 38/4, so probably won’t be too pleased to see Jasprit Bumrah fired up at full speed with the new ball in hand.
But Sharma warns he doesn’t expect them to make the same mistake twice.
“If the batsmen is finding it uncomfortable we will welcome him with some short stuff but these guys play bouncers all the time growing up in Australia,” he added.
“Even the best batsmen will find it difficult against short-pitched bowling and we’ve definitely got the attack to do that. However, we shouldn’t get carried away, we need to read the conditions and keep their batsmen guessing.”