It was in the September of 2007 during the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa that a 20 year old Rohit Sharma announced himself on the international stage by playing a match winning innings of rare technical quality against the South Africans. The Indians were struggling at 61-4 when he came in to bat but he steadied the ship and shepherded the team to safety against the likes of Pollock, Nel and Kallis. The words of cricket photographer Graham Morris- ‘You know you are watching someone special’- about a 16 year old Sachin Tendulkar must have been in the minds of most who watched that innings. He had a superb technique; could handle the short ball, the seam or the swing on offer with aplomb, as was seen in the tour of Australia when he displayed a maturity beyond his years in the final. In that game, he provided excellent support to Tendulkar as the Master took it upon himself to take India home.
Those were heady days indeed for the young Rohit, however his form went from bad to worse over the years as he stumbled from one forgettable performance to another in international although he remained a beast in the IPL. The lack of form was simply embarrassing for someone who had oodles of talent.
However, what has often gone unnoticed is Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s unwavering belief in his abilities and against all odds he persisted with him. The masterstroke from Dhoni was however his decision to turn Rohit into an opener in ODIs and although the batsman did not do anything spectacular in England during the Champions’ Trophy, he showed that he could be a reliable player at the top of the order. However, one thing that could not be denied was that Rohit had not scored a single ODI century for three years dating back to a century against the amateur Zimbabwean side back in 2010 and the heat was getting well and truly claustrophobic.
Resurgence of Rohit Sharma
This is why the innings that he played against Australia at Jaipur in the second game of the ODI series can be looked upon as a watershed moment in the career of Rohit Sharma. The target was a mammoth 360 and these are the sort of targets that can hardly be achieved without some sort of a contribution from the top order. Although there were jitters when he started off, he soon settled down and it must also be added that Dhawan’s innings helped in settling down as well. Dhawan’s fearless stroke play ensured that Rohit could play the odd dot ball. It was an innings of rare class and even more tellingly he did not throw his wicket away and saw to it that he remained at the crease till the end.
The quality of the innings can be gauged from the fact that Virat’s record breaking 52 ball century did not merit the man of the match award on this occasion- a rarity; instead it went to Rohit Sharma. The swagger and the panache are well and truly back.