Dhoni praises Rohit's adaptability under duress
A top-order batsman scored big, which led to a comfortable victory in limited-overs cricket in the subcontinent. Seems just another Wednesday for the Indian team.
Except the pitch in Mirpur had a considerable amount of live grass on it, India were invited to bat first and were afforded very few bad balls in the early tussle. They had already disintegrated once on a bowler-friendly pitch in Pune and the chances of a repeat weren't all that outlandish.
So Rohit Sharma's 83 off 55 balls was the "kind of batting that was really needed," in the words of his captain MS Dhoni. He weathered a four-pronged pace attack, with Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman topping 140 kph, didn't panic when India were only 52 for 3 at the halfway stage and found his runs via the safest possible means. He knew the pitch was offering sharp bounce, so the drive on the up was stowed away. In fact, most of his runs down the ground were off singles until the six and four he hit after becoming well set in the 16th over.
"Overall if you see, he used the pace of the bowler," Dhoni said when asked what he thought of Rohit's innings. "They were bowling back of a length so he played a few cuts shots and he actually exploited the field more often than not." Rohit collected 20 of his runs behind point, and the two fours and a six availed from that region came immediately after he was dropped on 21 off 28 balls.
Along with deciding which areas to target, Dhoni also praised Rohit for knowing when to step back and Hardik Pandya for stepping up. The 22-year old allrounder strode in at No. 6 and clattered five of his first 11 balls to the boundary. He got to face seven more and came away with 31 off 18 in a partnership that provided 61 off 27.
"Rohit made sure he gave a little more strike to Hardik when he started hitting and he stayed till the end," Dhoni said. "Because of Hardik we got those extra 10-15 runs otherwise we were thinking a score of 140 would have been a very good score."
India's 166 for 6 did have something missing. Yuvraj Singh, making a comeback ahead of the World T20, had his second opportunity in seven matches to spend some time at the crease but he could muster only 15 off 16 balls. Dhoni mounted a concerted defence of his team-mate.
"I think the approach was good because all of a sudden you don't want to go out there when you get a chance to bat thinking that you want to do all these things. What's important is to play the delivery according to the merit. I feel that was what he was doing. Today he played a fabulous shot through the mid-off region and I think that's the kind of batting that's really needed from him.
"It's important for him to score runs, even if it is 15 runs, 12 runs or 20 runs, that will give him a lot of confidence and we all know once he's confident he's a completely different player and also to expect him to score big in the very first opportunity that he gets, or any other player gets, is very difficult. I feel he'll need a bit of time, an opportunity like this is always going to be good for him. It doesn't really matter how many he has scored but the time he spends in the middle will be something that is very crucial not only for him but also for the team."
It was actually something of a surprise to see Dhoni playing today's game. He had hurt his back while training on Monday and with the World T20 only three weeks away, there must have been a strong temptation to rest him.
"There was this dilemma of playing or not playing," he confessed. "But in this format if you're not playing, you have to leave the team and go back and it was a kind of scenario where it was difficult to convince people that I'll make sure I'll go through the 20 overs."
With bat in hand, he had no trouble: the six he hit to finish off the innings had barely begun its descent when he started to walk off to the dressing room. But keeping wicket proved a little more taxing and he needed a brace for his lower back in the 10th over of the chase.
"So what's the state [of my back], I'll get to know tomorrow, once you get up the body gives you a proper scenario. Now the body is warm, so it may give you fake signals. We'll see tomorrow how it goes, with two more days for the next game."
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo