Bengaluru, Jan 18: After scoring two consecutive ducks in the first two matches of the three T20I home series against Afghanistan, India captain Rohit Sharma once again proved his mettle as one of the most fearsome batters with unbelievable willow power in the final T20 on Wednesday.
In the meanwhile, his banter with the on-field umpire, after he (the umpire) signalled one of his scoring shots as 'bye', has gone viral. Cricket fans have enjoyed that interesting on-field humour and interesting remarks too have flooded the social media.
If there were doubts, why the selectors have preferred to go for Sharma in the T20 format as the skipper again before the upcoming T20 World Cup this year, that was answered by Rohit 'Hit Man' Sharma, with a superb show.
There have been also murmurs among fans, experts and former players, should established cricket players, who are capable of scoring at very high rates with traditional and proper cricketing shots, also play unorthodox shots at times.
After his herculean effort with the bat not only in the full-time match, but also in the two Super Overs, Sharma clearly stated that batters of this era, have to play unorthodox shots to put pressure on the bowlers and fielding side.
Having hit a scintillating unbeaten 121, followed by a few more boundaries in the double Super Over to ensure an Indian victory over Afghanistan, captain Sharma said his switch hit and reverse sweep shots came out of the necessity to put the bowlers under pressure.
At the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday night, Rohit became the first man to hit five T20I centuries through his 121 not out off 69 balls as India made 212/4, after being 22/4 on a tacky pitch. More importantly, he shared a 190-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Rinku, who was unbeaten on 69 off 39 balls.
It also became India’s highest partnership for the fifth wicket in T20Is, breaking the previous record of 113 set by Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya. Electing to bat first, Rohit was under pressure after bagging two successive ducks and when the on-field umpire signalled leg-byes on a glance, he gestured that he had put some bat on it, thus showing the desperation to get off the mark.
Rohit took time till the 12th over, before accelerating unbelievably by smashing 93 runs in the last 35 balls. 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.
“I have been practicing it a lot in the nets. You have to play some shots in order to put the bowlers under pressure. When the ball is spinning and you can’t hit straight, you have to try something new. I have been practicing reverse sweeps and sweeps for the past two years.”
“You would have seen me play them once or twice in Test matches. You have the options and it’s up to you how you are using those options. The ball was spinning and gripping today so, I thought I’d play with the spin rather than step out and hit hard in front of the wicket,” said Rohit to broadcasters JioCinema.
Speaking on what India intended to achieve from the series against Afghanistan, Rohit said: “We had a lot of discussions before the series. I had not played for one year, so I discussed ideas with Rahul bhai (Dravid). Although I was watching the games, I was not playing. I got an understanding of a few things, so we wanted to implement them and also do something different.
"We wanted our bowlers to bowl in a different way, someone wasn’t comfortable bowling in the power play, so we had to use them there. Some were not comfortable bowling at the death, we asked them to bowl there."
With India now winning the series 3-0, their next assignment in this format will be the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup, happening in the USA and West Indies from June 1-29. Rohit admitted the squad for the mega event is far from being finalised, and that it will be picked based on the conditions on ground, plus the needs of the team.
“It becomes challenging to a large extent because you are trying out a lot of players. Like when we were playing the ODI World Cup, we tried out many boys in T20s. They perform but when the main squad is announced, some boys have to be left out. So, it is disappointing for them.”
“But our job is to bring clarity to the team. It shouldn’t be that we want to do something and something else is happening. So, in the pool of 25-30 players we have, they know what is expected of each player. We have still not finalised the squad for the T20 World Cup, but obviously in the mind you know the 8-10 players who are going to play.”
“Then you decide on the combination after looking at the conditions of the place you will be travelling to. In the West Indies, the conditions are quite slow, so we have to pick the squad accordingly. Again I say, Rahul bhai and I have tried to maintain clarity in the team. The one thing I have learnt from captaincy is that you can’t keep everyone happy. You have to focus on the needs of the team.”
Rohit also stressed on the importance of clarity in team selection and revealed how he motivated himself to be back in the team after the ODI World Cup final heartbreak in Ahmedabad.
“I don’t think anyone here needs motivation. All the boys want to leave their imprint. Not everyone gets a chance to play for India, so I am sure all the boys who are here, want to make the most of it. You can see that they are making the most of the opportunities they are getting. That makes mine and Rahul Bhai’s job a lot easier from that perspective. We just need to provide clarity.”
“The 50-over World Cup is the biggest World Cup for me. It’s not that I don’t give importance to the T20 World Cup and the World Test Championships. But, we grew up watching the 50-over World Cup. And when it takes place in India, it’s a very big event.”
“We tried. Unfortunately, we couldn’t win. The whole team was sad. I am sure all the fans were sad too. But we have one more opportunity now and we’ll focus on how to use that opportunity and win the World Cup," he said.
If that dream is fulfilled, not only Rohit, but entire India would be relieved after months-long agony, pain and heart-break of losing the ODI World Cup Final to Australia on November 19, 2023 in Ahmedabad. (With IANS Support)