After becoming the first batsman in history to record two ODI double-centuries, and breaking the record for the highest score in the format, Rohit Sharma said he felt it was important "to think" about an innings while compiling it. And that's what he did at Eden Gardens, he said.
"It's important to look at the team score, because that's how you will build your innings, you need to know where your team stands," Rohit said, after his 264 off 173 balls powered India to 404 for 5 against Sri Lanka. "It's important to know what the score is and how many overs have been bowled, and how many overs of each bowler are left. I think it's very important to think when you're batting, and that's what I did."
Rohit was playing his first match for India in two and a half months, having been sidelined by a finger injury and a shoulder strain. He had shown signs of hitting the top form straightaway in his return to competitive cricket - the warm-up game in Mumbai against the Sri Lankans before this series - when he scored 142 off 111 balls. After that break, Rohit joked, he was relieved to get time in the middle. "After a few months' break, so I'm not really tired, I was ready to bat another 50 overs," he said, adding that the pitch made it necessary for him to not throw away his start.
"But yeah, jokes apart, I was determined and dedicated to getting a big one. Once I got to fifty, I knew that I had to convert, because it was a good batting wicket. The scores here, even 300-350, are easily chaseable. We wanted to get a big score and that made me stay there as long as possible."
Getting going, he said, was not the easiest, but he was determined to fight it out. "The initial part, the first 10-15 overs were not easy. Coming back from an injury, playing after two months, I was feeling a little out of place. The free-flowing strokes were not coming as naturally as it comes to me, but I wanted to get stuck in the middle and that required a lot of dedication and determination.
"I kept telling myself that no matter what, how many balls I play, I need to stay there because I know I can [make up the scoring rate] any time. That was the idea.
"Luckily the quickfire 30 [28 off 24] from Ajinkya Rahane helped me to settle down. It helped me take my time, because after an injury coming and giving it away was not the idea. I just wanted to make it count."
Rohit was out off the final delivery of India's innings, and that gave him great pleasure, he said. "The fact that I went on to play 50 overs, that was really pleasing to me because I've been working on it, to bat as long as possible. So finally to do that was really good."
Did he know when he broke the record 219 scored by Virender Sehwag then? "I knew he got 219 because when I scored 209 the last time, someone said I had missed the world record by 10 runs. But while batting I was not looking at that, which is why you must have seen on TV also, I was a little surprised when I saw my team-mates standing and giving me an ovation from the dressing room. I was a little surprised as to what happened, but then I realised I must have surpassed the 219."
When asked if he would go after a triple-hundred next, he laughed, saying: "I will try my best to get there, but as of now I will take 264."
And 264 should be enough to top the charts in ODI cricket for a long time, stand-in India captain Virat Kohli said at the post-match presentation. "Today is the kind of day I can tell my kids I was there," Kohli said. "I don't think this record is getting broken anytime soon."
This was Rohit's first ODI at Eden Gardens, and he pointed out that it seemed to be his lucky ground. "Very special ground to me, I made my Ranji Trophy debut here, my Test match debut here [and] got a 100, got a hundred in IPL as well, and now this. A lot of memories here, which will remain close to me, and this one was really special." The Cricket Association of Bengal, which was celebrating 150 years of Eden Gardens, agreed that it was really special, announcing a cash award of Rs 2.64 lakh (US$ 4300 approx) for Rohit after the game.