Rohit Sharma is a man possessed, and he won't stop until he finishes his World Cup story
Rohit Sharma is making up for his lost 2011 World Cup glory and he will pull out all the stops to have his moment by lifting the Cup this time around.
Rohit Sharma took a lifetime to haul himself away from the Narendra Modi Stadium on Saturday night. The Indian captain had just been sucked into playing a false shot by Shaheen Shah Afridi, the slower delivery skewing off the inside edge to mid-wicket.
To the uninitiated, Rohit's forlorn look might have suggested another in a sequence of failures. In reality, he had smashed 86, off just 63 deliveries, in a needle clash against Pakistan, playing the lead role in India extending their World Cup record over their fiercest foes to 8-0. His despondency stemmed not from having missed out on a second straight ton but because he hadn’t stuck around to get the job done, to haul his side over the finish line.
After being dismissed without scoring in India's opener against Australia, Rohit has batted like a man possessed. In New Delhi on Wednesday against Afghanistan, he hammered the fastest World Cup hundred by an Indian, off just 63 deliveries. Fours and sixes flowed off his bat as if preordained, Afghanistan clueless about how to staunch the bleeding.
That 131 was Rohit’s seventh World Cup century, the most by any batter in the tournament’s history. An eighth seemed his for the taking until it was not, though by then, Rohit had entertained a huge gathering with another iridescent display of shot-making.
Rohit has more than 300 sixes in 50-over internationals, and no one has struck more sixes in all three international formats combined. During the Afghanistan game, he went past Chris Gayle’s mark of 553 sixes; later, he said he had invoked his inner Gayle, drawing inspiration from the Universe Boss to up his six-hitting game.
The ultra-aggressive approach Rohit has adopted in this World Cup has been a sight to behold. The rate at which he scores runs, and the number of sixes he uncorks – there were six on Saturday – might indicate brutal ball-bashing, but Rohit is anything but savage. There is a fluid, languid elegance to his batting that comes only to the very few, to the very gifted. Even when he opens his shoulders and deposits the ball into the stands, he does so with minimum fuss, his innate timing the more visible facet.
Rohit is a stickler for preparation. He hates leaving anything to chance, and after 16 years in international cricket, he knows his batting inside out. He knows what he can do; more importantly, he is aware of what he can’t, which isn’t a great deal. Equally at home against pace or spin, off the front foot and the back, and on the off-side and on, there is hardly a chink in his armour, though like all openers – indeed all batters – there is a certain vulnerability outside off-stump that is inevitable.
Beyond that, though, Rohit has evolved into a complete batter. He is quick at working out when to go on the attack, which bowlers to target, which areas of the ground to hit to, which are his go-to strokes. One of them is the pull, which he plays with such glorious authority that it takes one’s breath away. On Saturday, that stroke was on full view against the extreme pace of Haris Rauf.
Every time Rauf sought to test out the bounce in the pitch, Rohit latched on to the offering with scarcely concealed glee. Transferring his body weight in a trice, he got into excellent positions, met the ball at the top of the bounce and didn’t bother to try to keep it down, peppering the stands with supreme authority. Rauf was shell-shocked, stunned by Rohit's impunity and the total command with which he took him apart.
Rohit has made no effort to conceal his disappointment at being left out of the squad for the 2011 World Cup, a disappointment compounded by India lifting the title under Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Today, he is in a position to emulate India's most successful ODI captain by leading his side to the crown, a responsibility he has taken extremely seriously. He isn't prone to tall claims and doesn't take himself too seriously, his ability to laugh at himself an endearing trait his teammates adore him for. They will walk the extra mile for the skipper who encourages them to be their natural selves, and who won't ask anything of them he won't do himself. They want him to hold the trophy aloft on November 19 as badly as he himself does. India have taken the first baby steps towards that end with three wins on the trot, with Rohit firmly in the forefront.
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