264, a number that broke uncountable records, got etched after Rohit Sharma's name forever. Photo courtesy: Twiiter (T20-Cricketworldcup)
264, a number that broke uncountable records, got etched after Rohit Sharma’s name forever. Photo courtesy: Twitter (T20-Cricketworldcup)

November 2014. The ‘City of Joy’ had just wrapped up their famous Durga Puja, however the hangover was still there. Providing more reasons to rejoice, Sri Lanka toured India for a five-match ODI series with the fourth match slated to be played at the iconic Eden Gardens.  A live cricket match, irrespective of the teams, excites me like nothing. So when my seniors broke the news to me about the confirmation of the passes for the fixture, my happiness knew no limit. READ: How Rohit Sharma silenced me with his debut Test hundred

The match nevertheless had no impact on the series. A Virat Kohli-led ‘Men in Blue’ had already won the first three games and hence pocketed the series straight away. Kohli, as he is, was eyeing a 5-0 of course which looked quite possible. The skipper was in a happy mood to experiment with the options available to find the suitable combination. Shikhar Dhawan, who had played brilliantly in the first three ODIs, was rested and in came Rohit Sharma, who was off colour for a long time and made his appearance for the first time in the series.

As we entered the ground, a rare scene caught our attention. It was probably the first time Eden Gardens was so reluctant about an international match. There were indeed certain reasons behind that approach to the game. The match was on a weekday, and for a match that hardly had any impact on the series, the crowd looked okayish. Since it was a one-sided game, many, despite having passes for the match, did not turn up. Little did they know about what was in store for the Eden crowd on November 13.

Unaccustomed to such an inactive crowd, we settled down. Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews handed the ball to Nuwan Kulasekara. Ajinkya Rahane welcomed him with a boundary off the very first delivery.

“It is going to be yet another one-sided, boring match,” sighed the stranger sitting beside me. While Rahane looked quite confident, hitting three boundaries in the first over, Rohit looked rather defensive, taking singles and playing carefully. After playing seven consecutive dot balls, the situation went even worse as he played the ball up straight to Thisara Perera at third man, who dropped it.

After facing 16 dot balls including a maiden over by Mathews, Rohit hit his first boundary of the day. The shot did not look to be one of his bests as it came off a rather loose ball from Mathews. Meanwhile, Rahane bid goodbye after a 28-run cameo and Ambati Rayudu took the crease, who soon followed Rahane, scoring just 8 runs.

People around kept their guesses coming about how many runs would Rohit score on that day. Maybe 30 or 40? They seemed quite sure it was Rohit who would depart next.

The crowd stood up on their feet as skipper Kohli walked into the field. As he stood at the non-striker’s end, Rohit played a better shot that ran towards the point boundary. Kohli’s entry changed the course of the game as both the players started looking for boundaries. Rohit’s first fifty came off 72 balls.

Rohit survived as Ajantha Mendis failed to complete a return catch. Spectators skipped a heart-beat or two together, cursing the batsman for his slow-paced innings as well as getting dropped twice. The next few overs went pretty normal, with a boundary in almost every over from Rohit. India took the batting powerplay in the 30th over. Things suddenly looked to change; Rohit hit a couple of fours and a six off the Kulasekara over and looked confident like never before in the innings. It took him just 28 balls to score his next half-century. Rohit completed his run-a-ball century and celebrated it like the best innings of his life.

The century had enhanced the confidence within the player and it was evident as he went berserk on the Lankan bowlers. Not a single over was played without a boundary from Rohit and with a four over cover; Rohit completed his 150 runs and registered the highest individual score at Eden Gardens.

The over involved a bizarre run out and Kohli had to walk off. Overpowered by what Rohit was doing at the other end, Kohli’s 66-run innings went unnoticed but was a crucial one to provide support to Rohit at the other end. The crowd, which looked quite uninterested in what was going on and most of the youngsters were seen more indulged in using mobile phones, were up on their feet by then as the sleeping giant had woken up. With the 25th boundary of his innings, Rohit became the first man on Earth to score two double tons in ODIs as well as equalled Sachin Tendulkar’s record of scoring the maximum boundaries in an ODI innings. The count went on to 33, while he hit a total of 16 sixes, which also is a world record for maximum sixes hit by an individual in an innings.

Rohit looked unstoppable, and it was only the last ball of the innings as he hit it straight to Mahela Jayawardene at long off. The scorecard read 264 beside Rohit Sharma’s name, the highest individual score in ODIs by any individual on the planet as India went on to score 404. The bowlers’ card looked shameful and it was only Mathews who had a decent economy of 5.50.

It was not just an innings for the player. It was an answer to those who doubted his abilities and potential in him to play an impactful knock. Shutting his critics for once and for all, Rohit had also ended his trailing bad patch as well. 264, a number that broke uncountable records, got etched after his name forever.

What followed was an effortful chase from Sri Lanka but obviously they no way were in front of the huge target. The crowd looked elated, as whenever Rohit came to field at the deep, they chanted his name in unison. The feeling was yet to sink. His innings that had happened in front of their eyes, was hard to believe. Mathews’ 75 went in vain, and India bagged the match by 153 runs, bundling the visitors for 251, no price for guessing who got the Man of the Match.

—On Rohit Sharma’s birthday, a return gift from a spectator who remained lucky to witness the incredible innings.

(Paulami Chakraborty, a singer, dancer, artist, and photographer, loves the madness of cricket and writes about the game. She can be followed on Twitter at @Polotwitts)