Just this morning, we were sitting and talking about India cricket. Sachin Tendulkar -- on his way out. Rahul Dravid -- gone. VVS Laxman -- gone. Virender Sehwag -- in the wilderness. Gautam Gambhir -- trying to fight his way back. Zaheer Khan -- getting better but still on the outside. So who would we watch Indian cricket for?
And then the young Indian brigade provided the perfect riposte. Chasing a mammoth 360 to win against a confident Australian attack -- that had them under the pump in the first ODI at Pune -- Shikhar Dhawan (95 off 86 balls), Rohit Sharma (141 off 123 balls) and Virat Kohli (100 off 52 balls) did the impossible with ease.
By the 38th over, the required run-rate was under six runs an over and the batsmen had barely broken a sweat. It was almost freakish because this wasn't supposed to happen; because at the start of the innings, the required rate was above 7.50 runs per over. In the end, they won by 39 balls -- 6 and a half overs -- to spare.
This was the third time Australia had made 359 against India and they had won the previous two matches by 125 and 208 runs. Huge margins in the one-day game. It led many to even wonder whether there was any point in taking the field.
To make matters worse, India's largest successful ODI chase was 330 against Pakistan in 2012 and their highest against Australia was 292. This was uncharted territory and all the big names mentioned earlier were missing.
But not for a moment did that seem to hinder Dhawan and Rohit as they walked out to open the innings. They took guard, they got going -- without any fuss.
The first fifty runs were anything but manic -- 50 runs, 50 balls. Rohit hit a few, Dhawan got dropped on 18 by Brad Haddin but other than that -- this was two batsmen trying to simply stay in the middle and give their side a good start.
But after getting a life, Dhawan got going.
"We just went in and played our natural game. We didn't want to play any rash shots. We wanted to give our side a good start and once we got set, then we started to play our shots," said Dhawan after the match.
Rohit Sharma got to his fifty before Dhawan but then once the left-hander got going -- there was no stopping him. The duo put on 176 runs -- getting progressively faster as the innings went on. The first 50 runs took 50 balls, the next 50 took 48 and then came the surge -- the third fifty needed just 36 balls.
But often in big chases, the loss of one wicket can lead to trouble. But that just didn't happen -- Virat Kohli was in his element and he was in the mood to help Rohit get to his first century since 2010.
"Just played my part. I kept telling Rohit that it is your day today... he had been getting 60s and 70s, I kept telling him to make it a big one. I decided to go for my shots to take the pressure off him," said Virat after the match.
And what a knock it was. He made 100 off just 52 balls, 7th-fastest century in ODIs, fastest by an Indian, and fastest by any batsman versus Australia.
Rohit's role cannot be marginalised. While the others were going for the big shots, Rohit kept his calm -- it allowed the others to go for their shots and in the end that had a big impact on the match. It was the first time a 300-plus total has been scored in a chase in an ODI for the loss of less than two wickets.
The hitting wasn't manic -- it was controlled. Dhoni later revealed what he told the team in the break:
"In the break I told them that just go out there and don't lose your shape when you go for the big hits. If you are looking to go over mid-wicket, it should look like you are doing that. So that is how things went. And it worked out but we wouldn't like to do this in every match," said the Indian skipper.
In the end, perhaps, Australian skipper George Bailey put it best: "What was happening... You tell me. That was a nightmare."
A nightmare for the Aussies... maybe. But for India, it really was the stuff made of dreams.
First Published On : Oct 17, 2013 13:01 IST