Rohit Sharma comes across as such a happy-go-lucky batsman but, with a bat in hand, his mind works like a computer. On Wednesday at the PCA Stadium, the current India ODI skipper played another gem of an innings.
Stats will tell you that he became the only batsman to score three double centuries in ODIs, and that his second hundred came off just 36 deliveries. But, it was the ease with which he shifted gears that left everyone awestruck.
India were under pressure after the Dharamsala debacle. Rohit was under pressure. Nobody would have felt as hurt as Rohit when India slid to a horrendous 29 for 7 in Dharamsala on Sunday. And, after losing the toss on a cold and foggy morning in Mohali on Wednesday, he would have been under tremendous strain.
The world now knows how India’s opening strength is also its main weakness. Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan walked out, aware of the fact that if they could survive — or, play out the danger of new ball in seam-friendly conditions —, they could play their shots on a track that had good and even bounce for stroke-players.
They did precisely that. While Rohit was circumspect to begin with, Shikhar was off to a brisk start and once the two had put 115 runs on the board, Sri Lanka knew their game was up. In the end, a 141-run win for India squared the series. Angelo Mathews’ unbeaten knock of 111 off 132 balls was the only silver lining in Sri Lanka’s reply. The visitors were bowled out for 251 for 8.
Rohit’s century didn’t really surprise anyone as he had paced himself well. It was the 36 deliveries post his first 100 runs that spread warmth among the few thousand spectators on a biting cold afternoon. And, it was Suranga Lakmal’s over that really changed the landscape of the game. Four full-tosses were creamed by Rohit for four sixes, and he was unstoppable. It was fantastic viewing as wife Ritika, full of emotions and tension, watched Rohit zoom past the 150-mark. For someone, who had twice scored double centuries in ODIs earlier, it was inevitable that he would soon reach that mark a third time too.
Rohit was hitting the big sixes at will and, while white ball kept disappearing in the crowd, the countdown had begun. Partners let Rohit take majority of the strike as cameras zoomed in on Ritika and the swashbuckling batsman once he got into the 190s. It was in the last over that Rohit’s push towards mid-wicket earned him the double ton. Ritika was in tears — it was Rohit’s gift to her on their second wedding anniversary.
Shreyas Iyer showed glimpses of his talent with a brisk 70-ball 88. He would be kicking himself for missing out on a century. But the knock will keep him in the Indian team’s periphery once Virat Kohli is back.
The Lankans knew 393 was a chase too far for them. They were never in the game and Rohit rotated his bowlers for a good workout. Leggie Yuzvendra Chahal showed why he is one of the most improved bowlers in this Indian team, using the bounce to vary his deliveries.