The Rohit-Virat ‘jugalbandi’ driving India forward at ODI World Cup | Cricket - Hindustan Times

The Rohit-Virat ‘jugalbandi’ driving India forward at ODI World Cup

By, New Delhi
Nov 07, 2023 12:01 AM IST

It isn't so much a competition as it is two greats playing off each other. It makes India better. It makes them better too.

As India's innings against South Africa at the Eden Gardens ended, two of the trending keywords on the social media platform X were 'selfish' and 'slow'. They disappeared by the time a Ravindra Jadeja-powered home team bowled the Proteas out for 83. But for a while it seemed like some people were watching a different game.

India's skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli greet each other after their match against South Africa(ANI )
India's skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli greet each other after their match against South Africa(ANI )

Virat Kohli had scored an unbeaten 101 but taken 121 balls. It wasn't the easiest of pitches to bat on and the spinners had got a fair bit of assistance. So the experienced pro, who was celebrating his 35th birthday, decided to hang in there and try to bat till the end. It was what the team wanted as well. But that didn't matter on social media -- some saw him as being 'selfish' and playing for his century. Others saw him as 'slow', dragging the team down.

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Now, none of this is new. Everytime Rohit does well, a section of Kohli fans will find a way to be critical. The reverse is also true. The genisis of this 'trolling' lies in the quest to find who is better. It is strange social media rivalry built on rumours from their early years and fired up by a thirst to elevate their favourite to the top of the pile.

But does any of this truly hold any water? Does it even matter? In a recent chat on the TRS Clips YouTube channel, former India cricketer Yuvraj Singh spoke of his relationship with Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

"Me and Mahi are not close friends. We were friends because of cricket, we played together," said Yuvraj. "Mahi's lifestyle was very different from me… When me and Mahi went on the ground, we gave more than 100% to our country. In that, he was captain, I was vice-captain.”

He added: "Your teammates don't have to be your best friends outside the field. Everybody has a different lifestyle, skill set. Certain people hang out with certain people, you don't have to be best friends with everyone to go on the field. If you take any team, all 11 don't get along. Some do, some don't. When you are in the park, put your ego behind you and contribute on the field.”

It's different

But with Rohit and Virat, the equation has been different. They have always had tremendous respect for each other. That was apparent in 2019 when Virat was skipper and also when Rohit got the captaincy after BCCI decided it wanted only one white-ball captain.

"Over the years, Virat and I have played together. We know each other really well. We know each other when it comes to our game and the team requirements as well. Based on that, we find the right thing to do at various stages," Rohit Sharma had said in 2019 just before the World Cup.

"He has been kind enough to come and ask whenever he has something that needs to be clarified, any advice. We have always been there to help him. Again, it's our team. We all have to come together to make those decisions. At the end of the day, I have been captain of a few teams. I know how it works," Rohit added.

"A captain needs his space as well to think about the game, his players. However, when he feels this is the time he needs to clarify, that's when you need to step and stand next to him.

"When we started out, we were looking up to guys who were experienced. We looked at how they advised younger players, how they worked with the team. Any decision that needs to be made on the field or off it, they all used to come together and make those decisions. It was never about an individual's decision.”

In December 2021, Rohit had a chance to overhaul things when he took over as skipper. Instead, he stuck by the Kohli vision and added his own layer on top of it. Why fix something that isn't broken?..

"When I was playing as a player, Virat was captaining then," said Rohit last February in Nagpur. "I noticed one thing that, no matter if we don't get a wicket, but that pressure has to be there so that the opposition makes a mistake. That is something I learned when Virat was captaining and these guys (Bumrah and Co) were bowling. That is what I try to do now, apply that pressure, don't expect a wicket every ball, just keep putting the ball in the right areas."

They have both clearly had a huge impact on each other ever since they played together for India for the first time in 2008. But, to paraphrase a quote from Vinod Kambli, Kohli took the elevator while Rohit took the stairs.

But after Rohit moved up the order and became an opener in early 2013, he started making up for lost time. And his success freed Kohli up to play his own game. It wasn't so much a competition as it was two greats playing off each other. It made India better. It made them better. And it continues to this day.

Rohit's 24-ball 40 at the top of the order forced Temba Bavuma’s South Africa to take a step back and even though he was dismissed, the quick runs allowed Kohli to play the kind of innings that has made him a legend. Rohit's 442 runs have come at an average of 55.25 and a strike-rate of 122.77. Kohli has more runs (543) at a higher average (108.60) but a lower strike-rate (88.29). They have roles to play and they are playing them well.

It takes all types to make a team successful, Rohit and Virat get that. Perhaps their 'fans' should too.

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