It would have been an extraordinary achievement to score a double ton in ODIs as well as Test in a span of few days, but Rohit Sharma has for the time being, silenced his critics with a gutsy knock at the Kolkata Test. Even though he missed a double ton in front of a jam-packed Eden Gardens by 23 runs, Sharma proved a point that he is a Test match material as well.
When Sachin Tendulkar handed over Rohit Sharma his Test cap ahead of the first day’s play at Kolkata, it would have been an emotional moment for the 26-year-old as he received the cap from his idol.
On the second day of the Kolkata Test, while Tendulkar was dismissed by Shane Shillingford, Rohit came to the crease while the crowd was on their feet, for Tendulkar. Little did they know that they would once again stand on their feet, this time for Rohit, who would become saviour for the team by slamming a ton, in a much-awaited Test debut.
In the past, Sharma had often shown glimpses of a world class cricketer, but he was heavily criticised for the inconsistency. While cricket experts hailed him as the most God-gifted cricketer of the modern era, they didn’t hesitate in writing against him in their columns whenever he disappointed.
But of late, Rohit has made the headlines for the right reasons. In the recently concluded ODI series against Australia, he was India’s star batsman as he took a huge load off his back when he slammed a ton in the third ODI, which was his third in 104 games, and first since 2010. It was a match where the Indian batsmen made a mockery of a mammoth score - 359, and prior to that match, India hadn’t even chased even 300 successfully against Australia. Even though Virat Kohli played a scintillating innings and scored the fastest ODI ton by an Indian off 52 balls in the same match, it was Sharma’s innings that proved to be decisive as he carried his bat throughout the innings.
That century instilled tremendous confidence in the Mumbai Indians’ skipper who three matches later, became the third Indian to score a double-century in ODIs. The Mumbaikar scored 209, an innings where he surpassed Shane Watson’s record of 15 sixes, and also registered the second highest individual score in ODIs. It was a treat to watch him bat so convincingly, and as India sealed the series, MS Dhoni rewarded him by naming him for Tendulkar’s farewell series.
While Dhoni could have played Suresh Raina or probably Ajinkya Rahane in the series, he opted for Rohit, who has had a phenomenal year so far.
Massive crowd turned up on day two of the first Test match anticipating a big knock from Tendulkar. The Little Master hit Shane Shillingford for two boundaries before being dismissed off an unfair decision. In walked Sharma, to create history after six years of wait.
The innings was special considering India were wobbling. While the experienced batsmen failed to tackle Shillingford’s spin, Sharma took his time and was well supported by Ravichandran Ashwin, who once again proved his worth as an efficient batsman, lower down the order. Rohit not only played a major role in reviving the innings, but was also seen talking frequently to Ashwin, and the results were evident when the duo stitched a record 280-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
His inconsistency was an issue, his body language didn’t impress either. Rohit was said to have blocked a spot for talented youngsters, and he was in and out of the team on numerous occasions. But despite regular criticism, there was a likeability factor about Rohit Sharma.
He became a different player in the Indian Premier League. Many believe leading Mumbai Indians was the turning point of his career. Under his captaincy, Mumbai not only won their maiden IPL title in 2013, but also went on to win their second Champions League title. Rohit Sharma- the skipper, impressed everybody with his form, and this time he made sure it wasn’t just limited to the IPL, as he played several match-winning knocks for the team this year. His knock of 177 runs in his Test debut will only get him more respect from his teammates and fans.
This year, the Indian team has been extremely fortunate to have players like Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja and Rohit Sharma – who have taken their game to a different level, beyond criticism. MS Dhoni has a team that is incredibly in form and they need to continue their good work.
Shikhar Dhawan too made a dream debut earlier this year, against Australia at Chandigarh. And the left-hander has been in phenomenal form since then. It is yet to be seen whether Rohit can deliver similar results, but one thing is for sure, he has realized – his time is now.