Unfazed Rohit Sharma finally coming of age
Melbourne, March 19 (IANS) With his well-paced hundred against Bangladesh in the cricket World Cup on Thursday, opener Rohit Sharma not only piloted India to an impressive total but also gave a further demonstration of his maturity.
The Mumbai boy, who holds the world record of the highest individual ODI score in an innings, cut down on his characteristic fluency in the face of some good bowling by Bangladesh in the earlier part of the knock.
But he went all guns blazing in the slog overs as India put up a formidable 302 for six and then skittled Bangladesh out for 193 in 45 overs to march into the semi-final in style. With Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane back in the hut midway into the Indian essay, the team needed Rohit to fire, and he did not disappoint.
The 126-ball 137 was not only Rohit's seventh One-Day International (ODI) hundred, but he also joined the elite club of cricketing legends Englishman David Gower and the West Indies' Viv Richards by becoming the third batsman to score two centuries at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground as an overseas player. His earlier century - 138 on January 18 - was against Australia in the recently concluded tri-series, but it was in a losing cause.
In a tournament where most of the top Indian batsmen are having a run feast, the 27-year-old's performance had been mediocre so far. While he produced two superb half-centuries - 57 not out against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 64 opposite Ireland - his scores in other pool matches were 15, 0, 7 and 16.
Rohit put on a 75-run opening partnership with left-hander Shikhar Dhawan, but then began losing partners at the other end. At one stage, the Indians were in a spot of uncertainty at 115 for three. However, Rohit remained unfazed and anchored the innings through, in between belting three sixes and 14 boundaries.
"It was important for me to stay at the crease, especially knowing we lost a few wickets in the middle. We knew it would be slow and low, so I wanted to take my time. I knew if I could stay till the 35th over I could make it count," Rohit said at the mid-innings break of the match.
Rohit finally was bowled by a brilliant yorker from pacer Taskin Ahmed, but India managed to scrape past the 300 mark. The Rohit one saw at the MCG against Bangladesh looked the one that had promised loads of talent coming into the Indian team.
He first came into the limelight after some class batting acts at number three in the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2006, which prompted the selectors to pick him for the senior national team. In 2007, Rohit made his debut against Ireland in Belfast but did not get to bat. He scored a paltry eight in his next match against South Africa.
Rohit was member of the senior sides which won the World Twenty20 campaign in 2007 and the CB Series in Australia in early 2008, scoring two fifties, including a vital 66 in the first final in Sydney.
However, thereafter Rohit failed to score runs in the domestic circuit but kept taking huge strides in the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) as he was bought for $7,50,000 by the now-defunct Deccan Chargers. He made 404 runs at 36.73, including four fifties, for his team in the 2008 season.
Rohit's lack of consistency saw him being dropped from the 2011 World Cup campaign, which India clinched on home soil. He was again called back to the side when the Indian team toured the West Indies in 2011 and some senior players were rested. But again he fell out of favour with the selectors after some time.
Finally consistency found him in 2013, as Rohit did justice to his talent by hitting a few big scores which included a double ton (209) against Australia in Bangalore.
2014 was a great year for him too, as he smashed his way to the highest individual score in 50-over format, scoring 264 against Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. From thereon, he has been a permanent fixture in the national team.