They said he was overrated. They said he didn’t have the temperament to shine on the big stage.
They said he was good enough just to play in the IPL. They said he was callous. They said he didn’t deserve a longer rope. Why, they even said he was all promise, no performance. Over the past couple of weeks, Rohit Sharma has silenced his critics with a few shut-your-mouth knocks.
On Saturday, he did what only two other men had in the history of ODI cricket. Actually, his monumental 209 off 158 balls wasn’t murderous. Yes, it was a cracking knock alright (Happy Diwali!), but it had all the qualities of a typical Rohit innings. Elegant drives, wristy flicks and, of course, clean hits.
Hits! Well, there were plenty of them. Sixteen sixes (a world record) and 12 fours came off his broad bat as India powered their way to an epic 383/6. But if you thought the Aussies would be blown away, you were wrong. Yes, the visitors lost by some distance — 57 runs to be precise — to hand India the rain-affected seven-match series 3-2, but there were many thousand tense faces at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium when James Faulkner made a mockery of the Indian attack under lights.
The left-hander smashed his way to a 57-ball hundred as Australia threatened to ruin the festive spirit in the country. But Mohammad Shami (3/52) dismissed Faulkner for 116 (73 balls, 11x4, 6x6) to start the party. Australia were in serious trouble at 138/6 before Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell (60, 22 balls, 3x4, 7x6) and a limping Shane Watson (49, 22 balls, 2x4, 6x6) dared to do the unthinkable.
But India hung on. And for the first time since 1986-87, India beat Australia in a bilateral series at home. We’re not counting the three-match series in 2010, where two games were rained out.
Rohit, who emulated Sachin Tendulkar (200* vs South Africa at Gwalior in 2010) and Virender Sehwag (219 vs the West Indies at Indore in 2011) by scoring an ODI double hundred, paced his innings beautifully. His first 50 took him 71 balls and he scored 24 ones, three fours and just one six. He was clearly playing second fiddle to Shikhar Dhawan (60, 57 balls, 9x4) who just took off from where he left in Nagpur. Thereon, Rohit batted like a man possessed. His second 50 took 43 balls, and the third a mere 26. His journey from 151 to 203 (he got there with his 15th six) seemed like a blur — 16 deliveries.
Rohit was guilty of running Virat Kohli out for nought and the joke doing the rounds was that he was too scared to face his mate in the dressing room. So he just chose to bat on and on and on.
Ah, poor Aussies.
Rohit came out of his slumber to smash a six during his 112-run stand with Dhawan, but it wasn’t until later that he really sprang to life. That he was in the mood for hitting sixes became apparent when he moved from 52 in 72 deliveries to 85 in 87 with five giant sixes off Maxwell and Xavier Doherty in four overs, this after a 28-minute rain delay.
The powerplay overs (36-40) produced only 22. The last 10 overs produced a scarcely believable 151, the last five alone fetching 101 to leave Australia shell-shocked and the large crowd with sore throats and soaring hearts. Dhoni struck two sixes and seven fours in a ‘helicoptered’ 38-ball 62, but he was clearly second-best on the day.
Australia were rocked in the second over when Shami beat Aaron Finch for pace and trapped him in front. With Watson having limped off the park with a hamstring injury earlier and not batting till No. 8, Australia pushed up Brad Haddin but R Ashwin — who was the pick of the bowlers with a brilliant display all the way through — bowled an excellent first spell, accounting for both Haddin and Phil Hughes.
Skipper George Bailey, easily Australia’s batting hero with 474 runs in six matches, was guilty of inexplicable ball-watching, and caught short of the crease thanks to R Vinay Kumar. That’s the only goof thing Vinay did all day. His nine overs cost a mind-boggling 102 runs!