Rohit shows willingness to change
"He is a lot more disciplined now," was what Suresh Raina had to say after Rohit Sharma played one of the most mature knocks of his international career to help India win the third one-dayer against West Indies in Antigua. It wasn't the pitch, or the attack that Rohit conquered today - there wasn't much venom in either. Instead it was an on-going inner battle with himself that he finally won. For some time now the battle has been: Rohit v Rohit. He has always given the impression of man who gets bored easily. He will lace a couple of pretty drives, play a big shot, make it all look easy before suddenly and, inexplicably, throw his wicket away. Perhaps the game came too easily for him.
He usually starts his innings a touch edgily but he flowed from the start on Saturday. The intent was still the same; he usually goes for couple of big hits early in his knock and he did so again. In the past, those attempts have threatened to derail him. Even in the second ODI, there was an expansive heave against Devendra Bishoo when he was yet to get off the mark and the ball just about cleared mid-off. On Saturday, he hit a six and a four against Sammy early on but in a more controlled arc, in the V.
The thing that stood out, though, was how well he controlled the chase. We have seen it from him in the IPL where he has earned his name as a finisher. He has rarely displayed that skill at the international stage but he did it in Saturday's game. India coach Duncan Fletcher was lavish in his praise. "It was a tremendous innings," Fletcher said. "I thought it was a great innings. It's not easy to finish like that. It shows the quality of this team that a player like him is not in [the] Test [squad]. He can probably make most Test sides but there is such quality in Test side now- there are such great players in there …"
Rohit seems to be in a hurry to erase the blots in his CV. He is a lot fitter now and by his own admission, a lot hungrier for success. He had played over 60 one-dayers for India with little to show. At the start of the tour he said that he was a changed man, desperate do well and represent India for long. He has done most things right in the series so far.
However it is a touch early to say that Rohit has turned the corner and has finally arrived. He has definitely taken the first step but more proof of that will come on tougher pitches and against tougher attacks. It wasn't all that long ago when he struggled against the bounce and movement that Morne Morkel extracted in the ODI series in South Africa early this year.
And there were a few technical problems that ailed him even before that. He would often drive without quite leaning forward fully and the short cover was almost omnipresent in most opposition plans. He worked on this shortcoming in the nets by using a shorter bat which forced him to lean forward as otherwise you couldn't connect with the ball. However, in the recent times, he started to develop an initial forward-and-across movement with his front leg which helped him to lean into the drive but threw up other complications: if the delivery cut in at pace, he often found himself having to play around the front pad and became an lbw candidate. If the ball, as Morkel repeatedly did, bounced from short of length and held its line outside off, Rohit would get a touch squared-up and stab out at it.
These are technical kinks but the most important criticism leveled against him was about his mindset. Rohit has shown the willingness to change and the third ODI was further proof of that. He has fans in the opposition camp as well. "He is a wonderful player," Ramnaresh Sarwan had said earlier in the series. "He has a way of sneaking up on you. He seems to be flow quietly and suddenly you realise he has reached 40."
Even as the ball that brought up the winning runs sped towards the midwicket boundary, Rohit turned to collect a stump for a souvenir. This knock could well be the one that he will look back later in his career as a little "big moment".
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo