INDIA’S TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA, 2018
Cricbuzz Staff •
The Indian vice-captain scored a series-clinching 115 in Port Elizabeth. © Getty
The job was done, the runs had come and the Twitter trolls were put on pause. It was time to let his hair down. Rohit Sharma was in the mood for fun after his 115 set India up for a series-clinching victory in Port Elizabeth. It was deliverance at the fag end of a difficult, sometimes tumultuous tour of South Africa, one in which he was backed to deliver in a format which he still had to master and ridiculed in the one where he classifies as a modern great.
Perhaps they were the residual emotions of the Test series lost but Rohit Sharma’s barren stock from the first four ODIs earned him an unfair share of criticism. He’d, after all, finished 2017 with 1293 runs, second only to Virat Kohli’s tally. So when he was asked how it felt getting back to form, he quipped: “I got out in three (four) matches only brother, how can you say form is bad after three (four) matches? You guys put people in good form after one match, and if somebody doesn’t have three good matches, you say he is in bad form.”
Rohit has been one of the regular members of India’s optional training group while most of the others, the Test specialists more so, have preferred not to train before every game in lieu of workload management. So clearly the lack of runs had affected him. But as he noted in the press conference, there were no technical issues that had crept into his game. He’d just found himself struggling to get going by “the millimetres and centimetres” that favoured Kohli. But it didn’t change his preparation.
“We always, in our dressing room, we are always talking how we are batting and how we are playing the ball. Scores sometimes don’t reflect that at times, sometimes they do, but that doesn’t mean that suddenly you have become a bad player,” Rohit said. “Because you have achieved so much, scored so many runs, 2-3 bad innings doesn’t change that. This is not just for me, but for all batsmen in the team, because such a situation does come that you are trying your hardest but things don’t come off. So at that point it is important that you relax and take a step back and think about what you need to do in the next game. Because every day is a new day and what you have done in the past. It is the same thing I am thinking right now. My hundred has gone now and the next game I play, the hundred I scored isn’t going to matter much.”
In Port Elizabeth, Rohit took stock of of the pitch and it’s apparent slowness early on in the innings and veered away from his usual routine slightly. He began slowly but once a new batsman – Kohli – was at the crease, Rohit quickly went up the gears to get a run-a-ball 50, which he then converted into his 17th hundred. Along the way, however, he was directly involved in the run-outs of both Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, which derailed India’s push for a 300-plus total. That Rohit was affected by the run-outs was reflected by his unwillingness to celebrate his milestone. He was able to see the funny side of even that situation in retrospect.
“Celebration… yaar (friend) two guys got run out before me earlier so there was nothing to celebrate about. I was not in mood to celebrate. But I knew that if we could get 270-280 it will be difficult for them because we knew the wicket is very slow and anything could happen as our wrist spinners are bowling very well and they have troubled their batsmen a lot. So we knew that 270-280 was a good chance to win.”
Rohit, however, found no reason to underplay the team’s achievement to complete a first-ever bilateral ODI series win in South Africa, ranking it alongside the CB Series win of 2007-08 in Australia, in the season that Rohit had just burst into national reckoning.
“This will be right up there,” he said. “After 25 years we have won a series in South Africa. Not the easiest place to play cricket, definitely not the easiest place to win a series. I think a lot of credit [goes] to the boys. Everybody who got an opportunity put his hand up and took up the challenge. If you look at the entire ODI series, it was a dominant performance for us.
“This will only give us confidence as a team to go outside and keep winning those series. The Test series was very close, I believe. It could have gone either way. Anyway, we are very proud of our performance and very proud of what we achieved today.”