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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Miandad x 2: Rohit Sharma brings back memories of Pak legend’s famous Sharjah heroics

Rohit’s effort, for several reasons, was arguably better than Miandad’s. For starters, the target was steeper. Secondly, Rohit is no Javed Miandad. He is a top-order enforcer, whose primary duty is to prevent the match from spiralling into a last-over knockout scenario.

Written by Sandip G | New Delhi |
Updated: January 30, 2020 8:26:59 am
India vs New Zealand, India vs New Zealand 3rd t20i, India vs New Zealand super over, India vs New Zealand super over video, Ind vs NZ super over highlights, new zealand vs india 3rd t20i, cricket news, indian express Rohit Sharma etched his name in cricketing folklore with those two pulsating hits. (BCCI)

It was Rohit Sharma’s Javed Miandad moment. Perhaps better. Miandad had hit 10 off two balls, Rohit scored 12. There have been several last-ball heists between the scorching Indo-Pak Sharjah evening in 1986 and Tuesday’s balmy Hamilton night, but for the Indian cricket audience of a certain vintage, any last-ball escapade takes them back to Miandad.

Rohit’s effort, for several reasons, was arguably better than Miandad’s. For starters, the target was steeper. Secondly, Rohit is no Javed Miandad. He is a top-order enforcer, whose primary duty is to prevent the match from spiralling into a last-over knockout scenario. In his 76 T20I innings as an opener, only thrice has he batted in the 20th over. When chasing, he has never batted as deep as the 20th over. Miandad, meanwhile, made it a habit to guide Pakistan through rough storms.

At Hamilton, Rohit, arguably one of the finest white-ball exponents of all time—a pair of double hundreds, centuries in most parts of the world and against the best attacks, a six-hitting machine — found himself on unfamiliar terrain. Forget Rohit, India has never played a Super Over — the last time they tied a match was 12 years, in the 2007 World T20 encounter against Pakistan, where the match was decided in a bowl-out. So a Super Over scenario, didn’t cross Rohit’s mind as he packed the kit bag after getting out. “Everything was packed. All my stuff was inside my bag. I had to get it out. It literally took me five minutes to find my abdomen guard because I didn’t know where it was. I have never batted in a Super Over before. So I didn’t know what to expect, whether to go from the first ball or take a single and see what I can do,” he admitted after the game.

India vs New Zealand, India vs New Zealand 3rd t20i, India vs New Zealand super over, India vs New Zealand super over video, Ind vs NZ super over highlights, new zealand vs india 3rd t20i, cricket news, indian express India’s Rohit Sharma celebrates with KL Rahul after hitting the winning runs in the super over to win the Twenty/20 cricket international between India and New Zealand in Hamilton. (AP Photo)

Nerves can get the better off the best batsmen, and it manifested in Rohit’s approach in the final stages of the game. The first ball of the Super Over, in which India required 18 to win, he attempted an uncharacteristic stroke.

A wild, premeditated leg-side swipe off a delivery pitched outside the off-stump. Neither does he premeditate nor does he attempt such ungainly strokes. A similar line, he would usually dispatch on the off-side, over the mid-off fielder. In the scramble for a double, he almost got himself run out, but for the wicketkeeper’s clumsiness. It was baffling because Rohit, in the last two years, had made batting almost entirely risk-free. The next ball, he almost got himself bowled, by attempting another crude heave off an off-stump yorker, saved only by the edge he managed. When KL Rahul paddle-swept Tim Southee for a four, it seemed that Rahul was better equipped to drag India off the line. But a single brought Rohit back to strike. The equation swelled to 10 off two balls.

Rohit, though, appeared eerily cool. As if he had scripted the fate of the match already. As if he had channelled his inner Miandad. As if he knew how and where he would find those runs. He ditched the high-risk, non-percentage slogs. He is no MS Dhoni or Steve Waugh. Or Miandad. Rather, he would summon the strokes that have reaped him more success. And not premeditate, not move around in the crease, which is so unlike of Rohit.

Then, kicked in his supreme understanding of the game. “From what I’ve seen in Super Overs, whatever you are chasing, it’s the bowler who is under pressure. That’s my understanding. Let him make the mistake. That was my thought process. And, he bowled it in my zone, and I smashed it,” he recollected.

He was waiting on the back foot, paving way for two of his favourite shots. The pull, for anything marginally short, and the lofted drive, for anything full or at a good length. Only a yorker with laser-guided precision could trouble him. Southee, like Chetan Sharma, attempted exactly that and failed. Sharma just cleared his front-leg and swung the ball over wide long-on. It was arguably Southee’s Chetan Sharma moment.

Southee didn’t quite have the courage to serve another yorker. Rohit knew it, and waited patiently for the fullish ball, which he lifted inside-out over long-off. His footwork was late and exemplary. It was much after Southee released the ball that he moved his front leg away from the line of the ball so that he could get the required elevation.

A straighter hit would entail more risk. It’s again another trademark of the finishers, to chart the easiest route out of trouble, that street-fighter streak.

That he still pulled off a Miandad moment — demonstrating another dimension of his game and personality — is a testament to the great cricketer that he is, his situational awareness and tactical flexibility. Batsmen, often, treasure such knocks, when they get runs or win matches in situations foreign to them. For all one knows, he might not find himself in such a situation soon. Or maybe never again.

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Later, Rohit admitted it was a different feeling. He has won India several matches. He would win more matches in the future too. But seldom would he be required to knock 10 off the last two balls of a Super Over. In that sense, he could be experiencing what Dhoni or Miandad might have experienced numerous times when they orchestrated those dizzying finishing acts. It’s the unflappability under cracking pressure that made Dhoni and Miandad cult heroes, showered more praise and adulation than some of their top-order peers. Or broke more hearts. For instance, among the batting colossus of his time, he had a relatively inferior record, be it the strike rate or the century count. But Dhoni was Dhoni because he won tough games.

All of these virtues shone in Rohit Sharma’s Javed Miandad moment. And it should be celebrated even more because Rohit Sharma is no Javed Miandad.

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