'I knew there will be a time when the runs will flow' - Rohit
In less than a week, Rohit Sharma has joined most of India's batting elite. On Saturday in Bangalore, he said hello to Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag in the ODI double-century club, hitting 16 sixes in the innings.
Five days later, in Kolkata, he took 165 deliveries before he even lofted the ball in the air, and joined Sourav Ganguly, Sehwag, Gundappa Vishwanath, Mohammad Azharuddin and recently Shikhar Dhawan as those with a century on Test debut. What makes this innings really special is that he has been yearning for the chance in Tests for a few years now, coming close - he was once listed to play in 2010 but injured himself moments before the toss - but not getting to put that white India shirt on. However, he couldn't say what satisfied him more: the Bangalore double or this century on debut when India were struggling at 82 for 4 in response to West Indies' 234.
"I cannot really say," Rohit said. "That was a 200, really special. And this is even more special because it's a Test hundred on debut. See, anywhere you get a hundred, it's very special. And on top of that if your team wins, that's like the icing on the cake. We've got to wait another three days to see what happens in the game. Both these innings are very close to my heart. With that innings in Bangalore we won the series, and here... let's hope that we can get into a good position tomorrow, and then I'd be more happy."
This has been an exceptional year for Rohit. He has led Mumbai Indians to the IPL and Champions League T20 titles, has transformed his career by opening in ODIs, and now has had a dream Test debut. This time last year he was licking his wounds from a disastrous ODI series in Sri Lanka, which somehow cost him the Test place that should have been his after the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. How did he turn the corner?
"Being a sportsman, there is a lot of inspiration to take from so many sportspersons from around the world," Rohit said. "You look at Michael Hussey, he made his debut when he was 30. There are a lot of other cricketers who had to wait for their opportunity. I'm no different, I'm one of them. I knew once I got an opportunity, I'd try and make the most of it. I never wanted to put my head down, I believe that if you have the ability, the talent, if you know you can do it, there is no need to worry about anything.
"There was this phase when things were not going my way. But I never put my head down, I just wanted to focus because I knew there will be a time when the runs will flow. I just waited, waited... kept working on my game very hard. Yes, today I'm really happy with what's happened."
This was not a freebie century from 400 from 4. Rohit had to fight hard for every single of his initial runs. India were struggling, the ball was turning, and West Indies were on top when Virat Kohli was the fifth man out. "See, they were bowling quite well when we lost five early wickets," Rohit said. "We wanted to build partnerships then, but they were bowling very well so we just thought we've got to respect these bowlers who were bowling in tandem. The five-ten overs of Shillingford and the bowler at the other end were very important, so we just thought that we needed to stick there, and that once we get in, we can capitalise later when the bowlers get tired. That's exactly what happened at the end of the day."
He spoke about the innings with the same maturity that he played it with. "They were varying their pace so when I and MS [Dhoni] were batting runs were not really coming so easily," Rohit said. "So we just had a plan of negotiating these overs and as I said, we had to stick [to] whatever we'd decided and then capitalise when the day was coming to an end. I knew this exactly because the outfield here is very fast so you just need to play your normal cricket. After MS got out, me and Ashwin had a really good partnership. At Eden Gardens, if you just can manage those few initial overs, thereafter it becomes... I wouldn't say easy but you get a lot of run-scoring opportunities." And Rohit knows from personal experience. He made his first-class debut here and scored a century. He started captaining Mumbai Indians here, and won the IPL final here.
The same maturity was evident when he was asked to talk about the earlier near-misses. "Whenever it happens, you've got to be proud, you've got to take that," Rohit said. "I was really disappointed with what happened in 2010, but now I just wanted to focus on what was happening at the moment, so my focus was on this Test match, and I was really happy.
Whether it came after three years, it doesn't matter. Finally, it came. So I'm really happy. I was really happy yesterday, and obviously on this magnificent day today, I'm happier. But it's not done, we've got a game on our hands. So we just need to be focused. Tomorrow would be another crucial day. If we can bat till about lunch, maybe a few more overs after lunch, we can get some good lead and try and put them under pressure."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo