Bengaluru, Jan 18: India head coach Rahul Dravid was left in awe of captain Rohit Sharma’s unbeaten 121 in the thrilling third T20I at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, saying the level of hitting he saw from the right-handed opener was incredible.
The series against Afghanistan, which India won 3-0, saw Rohit’s return to T20Is alongside Virat Kohli. But Rohit had a less-than-an-ideal start, bagging two successive ducks. At the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday evening, Rohit struck his fifth T20I century in India's double super over win.
"Honestly, I think he was brilliant today. He has just shown what a class player he can be. We were 22 for 4 at one stage and even when I went in (at drinks) in the 10th over, the talk was always about being positive. Obviously, you had to protect the game a little bit (at 22 for 4)."
"You always have the mindset of going out and set the pace of the game, but in games like this, sometimes you have to hold back a little bit. You can't hold back too much at this ground because you know you need a big score, towards the end, and I thought that level of hitting was incredible," said Dravid to broadcasters after the match ended.
During his 121 not out off 69 balls, Rohit also became the first man to hit five T20I centuries as India made 212/4, with 103 of those runs coming in the last five overs. Rohit took time till the 12th over, before accelerating in an unbelievable fashion by smashing 93 runs in the last 35 balls he faced.
"The thing with Rohit is the kind of range that he has, it's hard to bowl at him when he's set at the back end. You can't bowl short because he's really good with the pull, (can't) bowl up and he's got a great range as well. It's really good to have him back, just his presence in the dressing room has been very helpful. Both Virat (Kohli) and him add a lot to this group," added Dravid.
In between of bringing out his vintage shots and carting bowlers all over the park, Rohit even indulged in some reverse sweeps and a switch hit, which collectively came to five times. Dravid was in praise of Rohit trying unconventional shots to get valuable runs for the team.
"We've been chatting about it. We've been talking to a lot of our players about opening up square parts of the wicket, looking to use the sweeps and reverse sweeps, and practicing them. It was nice to see that Rohit is again leading from the front in that department as well.
"Sometimes you play good spin, and Qais Ahmad is one spinner who spun it early on. To counter him, to recognise that going straight [down the ground] to him would have been difficult and using the square part of the boundary was really clever thinking."
Dravid also lauded middle-order batter Rinku Singh, who was unbeaten on 69 off 39 balls and shared a 192-run stand with Rohit for the fifth wicket. Since his T20I debut in 2023, Rinku has amassed 356 runs in 11 innings at an average of 89 and a strike rate of 176.23.
"For someone who is just starting out in international cricket, just the maturity he's shown, the calmness is terrific. "We've seen him come in at the back end of an innings and finish games off, but it was great to see him come in at 22 for 4 in the sixth over and to just build that partnership and show what he can do at the back end, it was very good for us to see that."
"When we have these conversations with him, he's very clear about his skills, what he knows what his strengths are, what he needs to work on and how he's going to go about constructing his innings," concluded Dravid. (IANS)