Bangalore: When Virender Sehwag struck that incredible double century against West Indies in Indore in 2011, the first person to congratulate him was Rohit Sharma, who watched the spectacle from the non- striker’s end after coming in to bat at No 5. By then, the Mumbaikar had been in the team for four years, but was far from being a regular member of the side.
His talent was never in doubt, but his temperament was. There was no end to his struggles as he frittered away starts and opportunities.
His place in the side, naturally, was questioned.
Cut to 2013 and Rohit got shunted to the ODI opening slot after Sehwag’s ouster from the team. That was in the latter part of India’s home series against England in January and since then, Rohit has turned a leaf. He has been an absolute revelation, averaging 52 at the top of the order, culminating in the magnificent 209 in the decider against Australia here on Saturday.
The blinder of an innings puts him straight in the league of two greats — Sachin Tendulkar (against South Africa in Gwalior, 2010) and Sehwag as the only two batsmen to have reached the summit in ODIs.
In the process, Rohit broke the record of highest number of sixes by an Indian (11 by Mahendra Singh Dhoni) and then Shane Watson’s overall mark of 15, finishing up with 16 sixes.
Having batted at various positions in the past, Rohit seemed unsure of his role and the dilemma reflected in his inconsistent performances. It just seems that finding his own stable batting position has made Rohit deliver on his immense promise.
As a middle-order batsman, Rohit’s record was an unimpressive 1949 runs in 83 matches at 31.43 with just two hundreds. As opener, in 25 matches, he has already scored 1,100 runs at 52.30.
In addition, captaining the Mumbai Indians seems to have made him much more responsible than before and brought out the maturity his overflowing talent demanded. It is apparent in the way he puts price on his wicket now. The success Mumbai enjoyed under him – winning the Indian Premier League and the Champions League Twenty20 in the same year — as well as his solid contributions in both campaigns have truly added to his confidence.
All of this reflected in his innings on Saturday. Rohit paced his innings magnificently and didn’t let Virat Kohli’s run out for a duck affect his concentration.
Instead, he went from strength to strength and kept increasing his scoring rate — bringing up his first fifty in 71 balls, the next in 43 and the last 109 runs off just 44 balls.
In the early going, when the ball is new and the bowlers are fresh, Rohit prefers to bide his time, knowing full well that with the gift of timing he possess, he can clear the stands with ease later on. He does seem to understand his game better now, picking the bowlers and bad deliveries to play his shots. As he peppered the Chinnaswamy Stadium with his sixes, his amazing range of strokes was there for all to see.
He effortlessly guided the ball over the stands -- even the flicks would go for a six.
When Tendulkar had climbed the ODI Everest for the first time, it was the crowning glory of a career studded with memorable knocks. In Sehwag’s case, it was more a case of the final crackle of a dying flame.
But for Rohit, this knock, combined with the ton in the second-highest successful chase of all time in Jaipur, signals that talent has finally learnt to convert itself into consistent performances.
And that’s an ominous sign for world cricket.
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.