Australia in India 2013-14 October 18, 2013

Rohit produces long-overdue winner

Rohit Sharma's career, so far, is short on performances that are proportionate to his talent, but in Jaipur he showed that the support he received from several quarters over the past few years is not wholly unjustified

"I think more than me you guys were getting frustrated that I wasn't getting a hundred," Rohit Sharma told journalists at the press conference after hitting an unbeaten 141 in India's highest successful chase, in Jaipur. Surely, Rohit had to be joking. The release of his own frustration had been telecast to the world a little while previously, when he'd reached his first ODI century in three-and-a-half years and 58 innings. His celebrations featured a couple of wild screams followed by plenty of aggressive bat-pointing topped up by a volley of swear words. While there are some who have wanted to see Rohit succeed, one can't imagine journalists having displayed such heightened emotions on seeing him get to three figures for only the third time in 104 matches.

Rohit followed that gem with this. "I can see a lot of smiles here [from journalists], which is really heartening." Implicit in this sentence was the acknowledgment of support. Of course, if you go through an entire year averaging 12.92, as he did in 2012, after being touted as the next great Indian batsman for years, you will have your place in the side questioned. But on the whole, Rohit can never say he hasn't had support from most quarters throughout his six-year career. Especially from the selectors, the captain and the team management.

At times, this support has gone to ridiculous lengths. Specialist spinners have been pushed out to play his replacement and keep him as well in the team. Team-mates have often come up with superlatives to voice their backing for the man considered by them to be the best of the current generation of Indian batsmen. "He is the best talent India's ever had." "He's the best among us in the nets." "He is the best of the young lot that we have." This final endorsement came in Jaipur from the man who blitzed the fastest hundred by an Indian in the same match.

One wonders what Rohit would have felt listening to this latest instance of reaffirmation from Virat Kohli, who has 16 ODI hundreds compared to Rohit's three, who averages 50-plus - Rohit barely tallied 30 before he was made to open. One wonders what he's felt over the years listening to such statements, reposing more and more faith in him while his international career failed to take off to the heights all those words alluded to. Did he feel he was letting everyone down? Did he feel weighed down by all this expectation? Did he have the same kind of belief in himself that others had in him? Did he feel he was his own biggest enemy?

It was not that he was not trying, at least in practice. As he said after the Jaipur match, he had always been training hard. The effort had always been there. He put himself through a strenuous fitness regime after missing out on the 2011 World Cup squad. And then came an utterly forgettable 2012. Did he, in some corner of his mind, start thinking that he might not really be all he was talked up to be?

For someone afforded so much leeway, he had started to have the look of a man perpetually playing for his place in the side each time he went out to bat. And then, he started to open. Slowly, the scores started coming. A watchful 40 here, a promising 60 there. When questioned about his falling strike-rate, he would repeatedly say that as an ODI opener, it is difficult to face two new balls. But there was Shikhar Dhawan at the other end, charging fast bowlers and smashing boundaries as if that was the easiest thing for an opener to do.

Rohit dearly needed this century. Fifties and forties would have kept him in the side, but they would also have needed periodic declarations from his team-mates of how the big innings that would lead to a flood was just around the corner. This 141 not out will help Rohit make peace with himself, quell the turmoil that surely must have been raging inside. Perhaps it was that turmoil that released itself during that celebration. Perhaps we will see a different Rohit from now on. The one his supporters feel has been hiding behind a façade all this while. If indeed the veil has been cast away, Rohit could do worse than allow himself to slip behind it again.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kumaravel on October 24, 2013, 8:35 GMT

    Well done Rohit. Scroing big numbers always not possible. he scored some numbers when the team needs. I think some of the bigger players also when come to 5th or 6th in Innings their average low only. after they started carrier as Opener their average are High. Surely Rohit will be a one of the member in this. I ll pray god to show some exceptional batting from Him. Always i love him batting style and pakka time too. and He is also good fileder too. All the best for ur carrier.

  • Dummy4 on October 19, 2013, 7:19 GMT

    @ abhi_242671 Great observation man!!!!.. Rohith Sharma is the best young talent India has got right now!!!.. I think he is even better than Virat Kohli.. But his real problem is his attitude towards his game... Take a look at his first class average.. Its better than that of Shikhar Dhawan... But Dhawan and Kohli has got right attitude and they are mentally stronger than Rohith.. That is the only area Rohith should work on.. And I think he is best suited for the middle order slot than that of an opener.

  • Sai Pavan on October 19, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    I see many people commenting about Rohit's century and say he can play only on flat tracks. And the next thing they do is compare him with Virat Kohli. No doubt Virat Kohli is a match winner and has 16 centuries. But out of those 16 centuries, 12 were on flat subcontinent pitches. The rest four were in eng(vs eng), aus(vs sri lanka), zim(vs zim) and wi(vs wi). So does it mean Virat is a flat track bully? All guys rate even Virat's half centuries as match winning knocks too but what about Rohit's many half centuries in wi, aus, sa, eng? Yes, Rohit is mentally a bit fragile than Kohli and a bit lazy too but is coming of age. Not every person can be the same. Some people need less time, some people need more time. Now that he has settled in a single position like Kohli we might see consistency and if he fails even in this position, the next option can be brought in.

  • Dummy4 on October 19, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    @ irishhawks clam down mate !!! appreciate when somebody has hit century !! we can wait till he gets a chance to play in Johannesburg or in Perth !! just to remind you he recently did well in ICC champions trophy that was in England !!!

  • Cric on October 19, 2013, 4:47 GMT

    This is superb writing! Veiled but incisive!

  • Sunny on October 19, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    I see you hundered again virat kohli

  • Dummy4 on October 19, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    Kohli - through a mix of skill, focus and pure ambition has willed his technique and the results have taken him far ahead of the pack at the moment. The inevitable slump will come, but he's in a league of his own. Raina is mentally strong, but has obvious chinks in his technique. Dhawan is in an extended purple patch, hungry after missing out on years. In comparison, Rohit is blessed with naturally good technique, his first class records suggests he isn't afraid of graft either. He is one of the best natural players of pace and spin. But his mind has lacked focus, and lately his form has only made it more uncertain. If he can tap into it now, this innings may yet become his freedom from shackles moment. Too soon to give a verdict on his career, just best of luck!

  • Alex on October 19, 2013, 3:48 GMT

    Now rohit reserved seat in team XI until he retires. What a life.

  • Dummy4 on October 19, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    Rohit is in Dhoni's good books and so he gets chances to play over and over again. There are so many talented batsmen who are ignored because Dhoni was willing to wait for 3 and 1/2 years and 58 innings for his boy Rohit to score a ton. The favouritism is just too evident. Perhaps in the history of Indian cricket, no other cricketer has been given so many chances. Finally he scores a ton and that too in one of the flattest pitches on the planet. Way to go Dhoni. You have said Rohit deserves more chances. I can't understand why.

  • Dummy4 on October 19, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    I am going to stick my neck out and say that if he does not get at least another two centuries in this series he must be forgotten.. This I say because he is the most talented batsman in the current Indian team barring Yuvi of course when he gets going.. But he needs to get the talent converting into runs.. And for the length of the rope he has been given since 2010, three centuries in a series should be a given expectation.. M. Vijay did that with the limited opportunities he got in the test arena.. It is only fair that this man delivers too without making wisecracks about how we expect more of him than he himself does..

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