WINDIES’ TOUR OF INDIA, 2018
Rohit scored his seventh 150-plus score in ODIs at the CCI. © AFP
Life begins at 100 for Rohit Sharma. Before that, his innings is on a series of snooze. A few wake up buzzers, like the walk down the track six off Kemar Roach and back on sleep mode. The rush begins only halfway down the innings.
While it isn’t entirely a new concept for batsmen to accelerate after reaching their three-figure mark in limited-overs cricket, Rohit goes beyond that: he explodes. It’s almost like he unveils a new avatar of his batting.
“It’s tough (bowling to Rohit)… He is a really good player,” Jason Holder said, explaining the explosive power of Rohit. “Once he gets in there, he goes really big. We just have to hang in there, probably bowl outside off stump and trying to get his wicket. There’s no point in sticking to line and lengths for the first 10 overs and trying to contain. You know how dangerous he can be once he gets in the flow, so you have got to get him out.”
The captain knew the dangers that lay ahead, and planned to protect his team from that. Rohit somehow evaded and batted till the 44th over. Everything else is self explanatory.
Since 2013, he has paced at a rate of 177 after reaching his century. It’s also a period in which he has converted seven of those to over 150 – most by any batsmen in the history of one-day cricket, and thrice over 200. Thus, as much as he would have liked to ignore the fact that every time he scores a century, it evokes a possibility of a double, it’s difficult. Not just the fans in the ground or behind television sets, even Ambati Rayudu in the middle was aware of a possible fourth double ton.
“Rayudu was telling me from the other side that I can get a double hundred. But I was just trying to focus on my batting and not to think about how I’m going to get to double hundred,” Rohit said after India’s mammoth 224-run win over Windies on Monday. “The three double hundreds that I’ve got, I had never thought about getting them.”
It was a happy homecoming for the Indian opener, who stroked his maiden ODI ton in his home city. He believed that even as there was some assistance for the Windies pacers, he could deal with it because of the knowledge of the conditions.
“I’ve grown up playing cricket in Mumbai and more so in CCI,” Rohit had said at the mid-innings break. “I have played a lot of cricket here. I do understand the pace and bounce here. I tried to hold my shape as long as possible into the innings. You just pierce the field and there is value for money. We knew the runs will come once you are set.
“When you come to a ground where you have played enough cricket, you feel confident of going into a match,” he added after the game. “That was my mindset before walking out to bat. I understand the nature of the pitch and what it does when the spinners are bowling, what helps the spinners when the bowl turns. Those things are important.”
But even as he called Brabourne a high-scoring ground and stressed on the point of understanding the conditions better at the Cricket Club of India, the fact of the matter is, no other Mumbai player, apart from Sachin Tendulkar in 1996, had scored an ODI century in Mumbai, and no other batsmen in the world had scored a century at the stadium.
Rohit’s quintessential big knock stood to break some long-standing records. In his wake up mode, he is more of a street thug than a sophisticated mafia, who prefers deep stabs to slick cuts; but extremely artistic. The bat arches stroked around like a paint brush as the ball kept whistling away to the boundary.
Even as his batting comes more out of an art school than a workshop like the Mumbai maidan, the essence of it is largely tilted with the latter: for the sheer appetite of long innings and big runs. On Monday, he displayed that yet again. Starting steady, taking 60 balls for his first 50, 98 for his 100, and then went on an overdrive.
Even as Rohit has rarely got to play at CCI in recent times, owing to most of India, Mumbai and Mumbai Indians’ matches being hosted at the Wankhede Stadium, there are fond memories for him to cherish from his exploits at the Brabourne Stadium. It was here that he had become India’s first-ever T20 centurion, stroking 101* against Gujarat in 2007. Three years later, at the same venue and against the same opposition, he notched up his first and only triple century.
On Saturday he was at it again, and allowed no bowler to survive the wrath of his demolition as he worked his way to a 137-ball 162 – the first ever century at the venue, and set the tone of India’s total of 377.