Giant leap for Rohit gives India its semi step
Rohit Sharma after scoring a century against Bangladesh, in Melbourne on Thursday.
India has watched Rohit Sharma grow in years, today they saw him grow in stature. Since making his international debut as a teenager, with the public gaze on him, he has gained weight, lost form, lost hair, gained ground.
After his highs, they would call him gifted, applaud but move on, not really staying by his side. The more frequent lows gave him names — overrated, enigma, ‘Nohit’ Sharma being some of them.
Today at MCG, the batsman known for his frustrating inconsistency, flashy strokes and fractionally-short-of-40 ODI average won the trust of fans and a semifinal spot for his team.
Henceforth, whenever the team is in crisis, they will say “Rohit is still there” with hope and belief. Reliability isn’t an add-on virtue that tags consistency, it’s an honour reserved for a competent crisis manager. The opener, who got out after the 47th over after an inning that sealed the game for India, today won the faith of the terraces.
Sharma’s 126-ball 137, that guided India from 99/2 in 25 overs to 302 in 50, had gravitas, an aspect of batting not associated with him since his junior days or even after his record breaking 265 late last year.
Sharma’s innings get remembered for sublime shots, rarely by the context of the game. You remember the elbow, the toes, the punch but not the fact that the 265 came in a dead rubber at Eden Gardens against a depleted Sri Lanka.
The 126 balls he faced today were different. In years to come, they will talk about the first-ball square drive, the backfoot punch to Mashrafe Mortaza’s slow ball in the slog overs and the crowd favourite straight six off Rubel Hossain, but not without mentioning how Rohit stayed on the wheel, despite mishaps, and drove India from Melbourne to Sydney, the semifinal venue. That’s Sharma 2.0.
Bangladesh might be the least intimidating of the quarterfinalists. But at 79-2 and 115-3, Indian supporters were jittery, trying to push back unpleasant memories of the 2007 World Cup. Sharma helped settle nerves.
The Sharma of old was known more for style, less for solidity. Since his early days, even when he was seen as the next big batsman, he never got spoken of as Gavaskar Jr or Tendulkar II. When Sharma was in the middle of the under-19 World Cup, the team’s very creative video analyst made a short film to inspire the young cricketers. In a split-screen comparison, he put his boys next to the game’s greats. So Cheteshwar Pujara was by Rahul Dravid’s side, Piyush Chawla was Shane Warne and Sharma, he was the Aussie great Mark Waugh.
You believed the video analyst’s fantasy, when Sharma, in his first year on the international circuit, played a match-winning knock, alongside Tendulkar, against Australia in the tri-series final. He so looked like Tendulkar’s replacement at No.4. A string of ‘caught behinds’ while fashioning those careless looking drives or getting held at covers while playing that backfoot punch would make India realise that Sharma was no Tendulkar or Waugh.
He would get dropped, miss the last World Cup but Aussie greats like Greg Chappell and Alan Border would continue saying that India were making a mistake by not persisting with Sharma. With such a tempting talent on the sidelines, the selectors would go back to him but Sharma would not really repose their faith. Like during the Test series in England last year, Sharma would step out to spinner Moeen Ali just before tea and get out. The tongues would wag again, the realisation that he is no Tendulkar or Waugh would strike home again.
Of late though, things have been changing. Opening the innings in the ODIs would be the responsibility that brought the long-awaited maturity to Sharma. He would be selective in hitting his trademark shots and look to anchor the innings. Like he did today. He didn’t hit his trademark inside-out against the spinner nor did he stroke his cover drive when the ball was new. The fall of wickets didn’t see him panicking. When Suresh Raina was around, he let him do the hitting. Only when Raina was out did Sharma turn back the clock. He was once again charmingly careless.
With more innings like these, the dichotomy about the on-and-off the field Sharma seems to be fading. When his critics would write him off for being unreliable and irresponsible, those close to him, his friends and family, would get really offended. For those who grew up with him, Sharma remains a trusted mate. His parents see him as a doting son, who has changed the lives of his extended family. They often say that Sharma hasn’t changed a bit despite his runs and riches. Maybe, they are wrong, he has changed for the better.
Source:: Indian Express