Rohit Sharma slammed his 14th ODI ton © Getty Images
Rohit Sharma slammed his 14th ODI ton © Getty Images

Rohit Sharma hadn’t played an ODI at Eden Gardens since that epic 264 in 2014. Three years later, the moment came. The opposition was one he cherished most — Australia. At Eden, Rohit could do no wrong and even the fans had by-hearted the fact. Then came a Nathan Coulter-Nile inswing, Rohit went for a casual drive, got a toe-end of the bat as the ball ballooned to the bowler. Virat Kohli’s entry was greeted by silence, or rather it accompanied Rohit alongside to dressing room.

“Drop Rohit. He is so casual yaar. We need consistency and scoring against good sides,” said a friend watching alongside. Worse, it was Kohli’s 92 that bailed India out on a two-paced surface and extreme heat. “Look at Virat. When you need skills to excel, he stands out. He did today. Ideally Rahane and Shikhar should open,” the friend further added at the end of the innings.

A few minutes later, Rohit dropped a sitter at slip. Or let us say it seemed a sitter. There are no easy catches at slips. The irked friend fumed at me, “I hope you agree now.”

Team India have climbed to the No. 1 spot in the ICC ODI Rankings. And the expectations have soared in recent times. Since his comeback from the surgery, Rohit was good in Champions Trophy and exceptional in Sri Lanka. But so what, Karun Nair was dropped from the XI after his triple century to accommodate Ajinkya Rahane and more recently, Rahane made way in the playing XI for Rohit during the Sri Lanka tour.

Rahane was fresh from his Man of the Series in West Indies.

With so much cricket, the attention span is shorter and when it’s Rohit, the trolls love it more. He got an undue advantage at the start of the career. Unlike the other youngsters Rohit received tremendous backing from the then skipper MS Dhoni and the team management. The lack of performances irked fans but the faith eventually paid as post 2013, he turned into an ODI monster.

“An ODI monster. One of the finest he is,” I replied to my friend who looked in disbelief as my social media timelines often spammed friends with Rohit trolls.

Rohit was lucky. Many were not. But when you convert that faith into the present mattered most in this case and Rohit though can be frustratingly dismal in one match and extraordinarily brilliant in the next.

Kohli might be the best limited-overs batsman at the moment but Rohit can steal the limelight from the best, and on his day, along with soaring strike rates there are breathtaking strokes.

Nagpur was a classic example. Coming into this game, Rohit had scores of 71 and 65. He was kept silent for 14 balls on a two-paced surface at Nagpur. Australians sniffed a wicket. Rohit was getting tentative. We all have watched Rohit for a decade now to know that something was around the corner. Rahane was keeping the score flow from the other end but would Rohit self-implode?

What followed was one powerful straight drive off Pat Cummins and he followed it with a gorgeous pull. He was 8 from 16 now. There began the show that lasted another 93 balls. Rohit departed but not before slamming 125 and ensuring the rest of the chase was a cakewalk.

 

It was an important knock. The conditions weren’t very easy and India had the No. 1 title at stake. Also, never before had India beaten Australia 4-1 in an ODI series.

Rohit became the fastest India to register 2,000 ODI runs at home. He also became the third fastest Indian to 6,000 ODI runs after Kohli and Sourav Ganguly.

The following chart illustrates Rohit’s growth in ODIs

Milestones passed

(Career runs at innings end) Match No. Year Ave (at innings end) SR (at innings end)
1,003 46 2010 31.34 76.74
2,061 87 2013 31.22 78.33
3,049 108 2013 36.73 79.50
4,033 132 2015 38.77 81.72
5,008 148 2016 42.08 84.60
6,033 168 2017 44.03 85.91

Note the rise in average and strike rate.

I called up the same friend this morning. Sent him the Rohit video and let him know some numbers.

From 35 runs from first 2 ODIs, Rohit finished the series topping the batting charts with 296 runs from 5 ODIs at 59.2. Aaron Finch and David Warner have been brilliant with their strike rate in the impressive 90s, Rohit struck at 104.22.

If India have to ensure a longer stay at the No. 1 spot in this format, Rohit will have to feature in the line-up more often.