Rohit Sharma © IANS
Rohit Sharma had played a fine innings under pressure and he oozed class all through the innings © IANS

On November 7, 2013, a day after his first day in Test cricket, Rohit Sharma made it a memorable one. The event was a momentous one for more than one reason. In Sachin Tendulkar’s 199th and penultimate Test, Rohit became the 14th Indian to score a century on Test debut. Abhijit Banare recounts how the day unfolded for one of India’s most talented batsman.

Long wait for Test debut

He played 108 ODIs before making his Test debut; even Suresh Raina made his debut before that. Rohit could’ve avoided topping this list if not for a last-minute injury ahead of the Test against South Africa at Nagpur in 2010. Ironically, he was called in as cover for an injured VVS Laxman. He was certain to play in the XI and the last-minute ankle injury robbed him of the opportunity; Wriddhiman Saha played instead. Since then, his best chance of a Test debut was in the infamous 0-4 whitewash Down Under in 2011-12. In sublime form, he ended up warming the bench while the famed Indian batting line-up flopped match after match. Rohit’s inconsistency further kept him away from adorning the whites.

The purple patch of 2013

He looked a completely different player when he was roped in as an opener during the Champions Trophy 2013. Along with Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit’s career found a new energy batting at the top. And ahead of the two-Test series against West Indies (also remembered as ‘Tendulkar’s farewell series’) keeping Rohit out of the squad was just impossible. He smashed the Australians at home in the run-up to the series. A century and a spectacular double ton in two high-scoring run-chases brought him back in the Test squad. There was no hiccups this time around. In the form of his life, Rohit made his debut but had to wait for a while since West Indies were batting first. Rohit had little to contribute in the field as Windies packed up for 234 on a pitch that was dry and offering turn.

Nigell Long raises his finger, Rohit walks out to bat

In response, Home of Cricket in India was celebrating the arrival of the Little Master playing in his penultimate Test with the team down to 57 for two. Virat Kohli arrived a few minutes later. It was time for some consolidation. Shane Shillingford foxed Tendulkar with the doosra and the ball hit the back leg. He was given out leg-before (in hindsight a tough decision as the ball had struck high on the back leg). While the Eden spectators gave a standing ovation to the Little Master, Rohit walked out to bat with the spectators still coming to terms with the loss. India’s situation wasn’t any better as they slipped to 83 for five.  Rohit had to do something which has been criticised for not showing in the past. He had the job of maintaining his temperament. For a player of his quality, the runs were sure to come by, but this was not the time to play those lazy yet elegant shots through covers.

The resurrection

Rohit defied nervous moments as he hung on to his wicket while skipper MS Dhoni did some scoring. Their partnership reduced the deficit down to 78 when Ravichandran Ashwin walked out to bat. It seemed they would at the most make a valiant effort to come close to the total of 234.

What followed was one of the finest partnerships in Test and made for a delightful watch. The way the duo batted, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that their elegance and superb timing would’ve been mistaken as VVS Laxman at his best against Australia at Eden Gardens. At 194 for six, Rohit was gifted a juicy full-toss by Veerasammy Permaul which was duly dispatched to the fence as Rohit got to a fifty on debut. He looked up to the skies and the satisfaction on his face was evident as he had rescued the team from a precarious situation. With the confidence, form and skill, Rohit marched ahead looking well on course for a three-figure mark.

By the time, the two crossed the West Indian total, they looked set to aim for a big knocks. Rohit never looked in trouble after the initial hiccups and looked at ease playing is cover drive and push off the backfoot. The spinners were dealt with equal disdain. Such was their elegance that it completely erased the disappointment of Tendulkar getting out early.

Given that both these batsmen were gifted with timing and placement, running between the wickets was not really on top of their minds as they found the fence at will. Rohit inched closer to a record ton. By the time West Indies opted for a new ball in the final session, Rohit was in to the 90s. Ambling across for a couple of singles and a two, he had reached 94.

14th Indian to score a century on Test debut

Four No 1: A harmless delivery on the leg-side and Rohit worked that away off his hips for four. Easy pickings. Moves on to 97.

Four No 2: This one’s pitched outside off and Rohit shows poor footwork while going for a drive. Gets the outside edge and the ball flies between the slips and gully for four. For a moment he looked behind to nervously whether it was heading in to the waiting hands in the cordon. Once the ball was through, Rohit reached the middle of the pitch celebrating while Ashwin walked up to congratulate. It was a fine innings under pressure and he oozed class all through the innings.

Stat: Rohit Sharma is the fifth Indian after Shikhar Dhawan, RP Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin and Pravin Amre to win the Man of the Match on Test debut.

Batsman

Runs

Opposition

Year

Shikhar Dhawan

187

Australia

2013

Rohit Sharma

177

West Indies

2013

Gundappa Viswanath

134

Australia

1969

Sourav Ganguly

131

England

1996

Surinder Amarnath

124

New Zealand

1976

Suresh Raina

120

Sri Lanka

2010

Lala Amarnath

118

England

1933

Abbas Ali Baig

112

England

1959

Deepak Shodhan

110

Pakistan

1952

Mohammad Azharuddin

110

England

1984

Hanumant Singh

105

England

1964

Virender Sehwag

105

South Africa

2001

Pravin Amre

103

South Africa

1992

Kripal Singh

100*

New Zealand

1955

Day Three

Rohit and Ashwin consolidated their partnership and the latter scored a ton as well, his second against the same opponent. Rohit went from strength to strength and crossed 150 making him only the second Indian to do so on Test debut. The first one who did it, Shikhar Dhawan, was sitting in the dressing room with a wry smile well aware that his record of highest score by an Indian on Test debut was all set to be broken.

But there was a disappointment in store as he was given out leg-before for thrusting his pad ahead and not offering a shot to a delivery which seemed to have hit him outside off-stump. Rohit couldn’t believe umpire Richard Kettleborough had accepted Permaul’s appeal. Rohit walked back dejected falling 10 runs short of setting a record and Dhawan’s record remained intact. The duo had added 280 for the seventh wicket, a record for India. Rohit though managed to set the record of the highest by a No 6 on Test debut.

“All I can say, it [the wait to make debut] was worth it, it can’t get better than this, such a memorable match, really happy with what we have achieved,” Rohit said to media after his innings.

What followed:

 

Brief scores:

West Indies 234 and 168 (Kieran Powell 36, Darren Bravo 37; Mohammed Shami 5 for 47, Ravichandran Ashwin 3 for 46) lost to India 453 (Rohit Sharma 177, Ravichandran Ashwin 124; Shane Shillingford 6 for 167) by an innings and 51 runs.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on @AbhijitVirgo)