At some point in the last decade, one-day cricket entered a post-ironic stage. A six used to mean something once, an atavistic thrill up the spine. Now its absence makes you note them. The 80s one-day cricket thrilled, the 90s excited, the 2000s boggled the mind, and now we are in state of bemusement. To even say that 264 used to be a great team score once, seems a cliche now. To say it’s mindnumbing is to reveal your age. It’s what it is.
But 264 by one man? Seriously? Sachin Tendulkar played 20 years of international cricket and couldn’t get close to 264 in any format. VVS Laxman’s 281 had a mythical halo for its context and value, Gavaskar’s 36 had a notoriety about it, Kapil Dev’s 175 had an awe… what’s the best adjective for this 264? The mind repeatedly reaches out towards cynicism, which comes with an sense of weariness of watching run-fests on such paata tracks, with rules forever skewed against the fielding team, but when one manages to silence those dark urges, we arrive at a wry state of mind.
What does Rohit’s knock mean to cricket? When as good a batsman as Tendulkar made his double hundred in an ODI, the effort showed. Rohit, though, never seemed as if he was extending himself, and that is the greatest achievement of this knock. Everytime someone approaches 100 on a flat track, people are going to wonder about the possibility of 200 and 250 and beyond. And Tendulkar’s knock didn’t come in some earlier era.
The nonchalance of it all is actually quite ridiculous. Look at the construction of this knock. The first 50 came in 72 balls before the acceleration was done so smoothly that it boggles. His subsequent 50s came in 28, 25, 26 and 15 deliveries. Yet, there was never a sense of freneticness about it which is increasingly seen in modern-day players across the globe. Somehow they seem to retain a sense of control even when they are swinging away.
It’s a trait that must shock the earlier generation. Not for nothing the end overs used to be called slog overs once. But they no longer look and feel like one for there is no slogging. They have honed and practised the big hitting so thoroughly that they retain their “shape”. The visceral thrill is gone; instead replaced by a sense of clinicalness which is quite astonishing if you think about it.
Did you see that shot Rohit played in the final delivery of the 48th over? He had moved outside off stump before the release of the ball. So far, so good. The ball was pushed further outside off; a slice over point would have seemed like a natural shot from that position, a slog across the line would have seemed a even more natural reaction considering his initial movements but somehow, Rohit managed to retain his “shape”. He retained his balance, just crouched a little, let his bottom-hand take over, all along maintaining an incredible balance, and sort of drag-flicked it up and over long-on.
It’s perhaps apt that the two biggest scores by an Indian have come from a man who threatened to get lost in the din that surrounded his own talent. It should have come from Virender Sehwag but instead it has come from a man who is at the stage of his career, where he has no option but to succeed if he has to leave some impression in the pages of Indian cricket. There is not much time for him to stun us with the volume of runs in any format. He had to earn his name in history with knocks such as this and no one can take that away from him now. He is the first man to breach the 250-run mark in one-day cricket and no one can take that away from the Borivali boy even if it leaves us with bewildering questions about modern-day cricket.