New Delhi: He has often been painted as a batsman who has failed to realise his potential but Indian batsman Rohit Sharma is not bothered about the criticism, instead he is eagerly waiting to make his Test debut.
After being catapulted to the opening slot by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sharma did extremely well in the Champions Trophy and the tri-series in the West Indies.
Those performances together with his good show in the recent India A tour of South Africa have infused a new life into his career and the young batsman is now confident to do an encore when he takes guard in the five-day format.
A freak injury just before the Nagpur Test in 2010 had delayed his Test debut but he is confident he will finally get to play the traditional format when the West Indies arrive for a short tour in November.
"I am confident. I am expecting another Test call-up and making my debut. Although these things are not in my hand as my job is to perform and contribute towards team`s victory but I am looking forward to my debut in the upcoming series," Sharma said.
In February 2010, Sharma was set to make his Test debut against South Africa but he injured himself while playing football in the warm-up on the first morning of the match.
He was also part of the squad for the third Test at home against the West Indies in November 2011 and the four-Test Australia series in 2011-12 but could not make the playing XI.
Since then Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja have all made their Test debuts in the middle-order.
Sharma also rejected criticism that he has not justified his immense talent. He has been often criticised for being laidback and not managing himself off the field.
"I am very happy with what I have done so far," he said categorically.
"I would like to keep doing things that way. I don`t look back and ponder over my failures. I am working hard on my game and keep on doing it," Sharma, who holds the dubious record of being the first player in history to play 100 ODIs without playing a single Test match, added.
Sharma said he is enjoying the current phase of his career and hopes it continues the same way.
"Last four months have been great for me and I am happy with my form. I am enjoying my batting. It`s about converting the good start into big scores. I have played 20-25 games opening the innings and I enjoyed my role as an opener. I am doing it for quite some time and I am happy with the role. I still have a long way to go in my career.
"Me and Shikhar Dhawan had some good opening partnerships going in the recent past. We gave our team convincing starts. It`s good as long as the team is winning," he said.
Sharma said the experience of playing in South Africa with India `A` will definitely help his game when he tours the country again with the senior squad.
"It will be an added advantage for us. Definitely, it will help us a lot. We did well and got to know about the conditions. I scored a hundred in the first `Test`.
"However, the team was not given the real feel of pitches. What we expected in South Africa in terms of wickets (pace and bounce), we did not get that. The wickets weren`t that great but you have to make certain adjustment. You get used to the condition when you start playing," he said.
The 26-year-old added that the short series against the West Indies would serve as an ideal preparation for the team.
"It can be, lot of guys haven`t played Test matches for months. They will be short of practice. It will help them get back into the groove which will definitely help in South Africa tour."
Talking about his own fitness, Sharma said he is feeling a lot more agile and quicker as a fielder.
"I have worked hard on it. We are now one of the best fielding sides in the world. We are strong as a unit and when you have a great bunch of agile fielders, your approach towards the game completely changes," he said.
Sharma admitted that the competition in the team has become tougher with seniors like Virender Sehwag and Gautam looking to make a comeback.
"Sure, the competition has become much tougher. But it`s good for Indian cricket. It`s good that seniors have been provided with a chance to make a comeback. It augurs well for the team but competition has increased."
Talking about the upcoming Champions League, Sharma said Mumbai Indians would "badly miss" the services of their front-line bowler Lasith Malinga, who has ruled himself out of the competition due to family reasons.
"Lasith is not coming but Mitchell Johnson will be soon joining us. Lasith`s absence will be definitely felt as he forms an integral part of our team. He is a great bowler and on his day, he can destroy any opposition`s batting line-up. It`s definitely a big loss for us and we will miss him."
Sharma said he would look to repeat the success of IPL-6 while leading the star-studded side in the Champions League.
"That`s exactly the goal (to lift the trophy) and our preparations are heading in the right direction. But it`s not going to be easy this time around with world`s best clubs competing in the tournament.”
"It will be a new challenge for me. I would like to repeat my performance as a captain but it`s a tough tournament," he said.
Sharma also seemed happy to have players such as Sachin Tendulkar and Kieron Pollard in the side.
"The team combination is good and we are all ready to go. We have a good mixture of experience and youth. A lot of players are coming off on the back of some good match practice and it`s all looking good," he signed off.