I agree that I have gotten out playing stupid shots in the past when the team needed me, said Rohit Sharma,scorer of 141 unbeaten runs,conjurer of a record chase and the slayer of Australia. But today,when the team needed me the most,I am happy to have seen it through.
He was tired,ecstatic,burnt out,cramping and borderline delirious. But perhaps,for the first time in the public domain,Rohit was brutally honest.
Quite like his innings.
On Wednesday,at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur,Rohit played not only the finest knock of his international career,but also his most honest-to-self one. So much so that when Mitchell Johnson rapped him on the pads with a fuller one on just the second ball of the day and went up in furious appeal (one that wasnt upheld),Rohit didnt try to show the bowler who was the boss during the next ball. As he is known to do.
Full,sharp and fast again,Rohit offered a steady dead bat,trickling it back to the bowler. It must be said that the innings was an uncharacteristic one,where he paid due respect to the good balls and punished the bad ones. Far easier said than done when youre Rohit Sharma.
Hence,he lasted longer than he ever had in ODI cricket and India pulled off their highest-ever ODI chase and the second best in the game. In that time,a little over three hours,the 26-year old was the glue that held two match-winning partnerships together. The first with fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan,where the pair added 176 runs and next with one-drop Virat Kohli,worth 186 unbeaten runs.
Personally,it was very important to play this innings. I have been trying to play long innings for a long time,so I am very happy, a composed Rohit said during the press conference later.
During this period of the long innings,the Mumbai batsman erased a few question marks that have hung over his career like doomsday clouds,from the day he first played for India.
For a man who is rather prone to causing heated arguments among cricket followers in India,it makes utmost sense in hindsight that Rohit Sharma made his debut in,of all places,Ireland the bar-fight capital of the world.
A dozen years ago in Belfast,a 20-year old Rohit walked out to bat in his first international innings against South Africa,all wrists and style,and technique and talent. But with questionable mettle and temperament. Ever since then,few have divided opinions quite like him.
If you havent argued for or against Rohit in the recent past,then you,perhaps,havent been as keen an observer of the game as you once were. Rohit not only makes you take sides,he empowers both parties equally.
Why hasnt he yet made his Test debut? ask those on behalf of his locked away genius. Because in over a 100 matches, pat comes the answer,Rohit has had 20 fifty plus scores and converted only two of them into triple digits (before Wednesday,that is).
On the question of his willingness to play the waiting game,chairs have been broken,eyes have been blackened and drinks have been spilled.
Yesterday,however,the world seemed in harmony when Rohit proved that when he puts his mind to it,even toppling a 360-run target was possible with a little over six overs and nine wickets to spare.
I can see why people were getting frustrated, he said,continuing that honest streak later. While I was frustrated,more than me you guys,the fans,were. Indeed.
It was here in Jaipur,in fact,where Rohits talent first came to the fore with his first ODI fifty in a losing cause against Pakistan in 2007. That talent,however,was rather evident when he played the perfect foil to Sachin Tendulkar in the first CB Series final of 2008,with 66 runs in bowling conditions. Soon,though,the grit petered away.
Between the Junes of 2008 and 2010,Rohit scored no ODI fifties. Then he cracked back-to-back hundreds during a tri-series in Zimbabwe. In the three-plus year gap between then and day before yesterday,Rohit played 60 ODIs,scored fifty 14 times but never once went all the way.
In this time,he won the Man of the Series award in West Indies,2011,and turned into an opener in late 2012. At the top of the order,he gave India enough starts in 2013 to pull off the Champions Trophy and bag trophies in the Caribbean and Zimbabwe. Yet,with everyone around him,from Shikhar Dhawan to Virat Kohli,dealing in centuries,Rohit was looked at as the weakest link of the strongest batting side.
HAVE TO BE RUTHLESS
The weak dont survive in modern-day sport. Rohit knows that. You have to be ruthless and Im beginning to understand that, he said late in the day.
Youd want to believe that,whichever side of the Rohit debate youre on.