Mumbai: Rohit Sharma was a sight to behold on Sunday as India took on arch-rivals Pakistan in the much-anticipated ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 clash.
Amidst all the patriotic fervour, high pressure, historical baggage surrounding the match, the Hitman had an ice cool presence, calming any bout of jitters that Indian fans might be having.
His innings of 140 off 113 after India were asked to bat at an overcast Manchester laid the foundation for a massive win for India as they took their unbeaten run over Pakistan to 7-0 in 50-over World Cups.
Front-foot pull shots, lighting hooks and marauding upper-cuts, the innings was loaded with shots that would make anybody gaze in awe.
With his sublime knock, Rohit also became the first Indian to score back-to-back centuries against Pakistan. Sunday's innings was followed by his 111 not-out against the neighbours which came in Asia Cup 2018.
Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar was mighty impressed by the innings of the fellow Mumbaikar. The former batsman who has witnessed the growth of Rohit in front of his eyes heaped praise on the Indian opening batsman for the way he built his innings against Pakistan.
"He (Rohit) has matured (over the years). He is now an experienced player and one of the best in the world. The innings that he played yesterday against Pakistan was outstanding.
"It was a high-pressure game. His regular opening partner was injured but he showed a lot of responsibility, played his shots and improvised also. Outstanding, out of the World. He is a world class player, period," said Vengsarkar on the sidelines of the launch of Indian Tennis Cricket League (ITCL).
Vengsarkar said the strong start to the match from Indian openers put Pakistan on the back-foot.
"India-Pakistan match is a big game but the way Indians played from the beginning put Pakistan on the back-foot for the whole day."
Asked about the area of concerns for the Virat Kohli-led side after three completed matches of the side in the ICC event, Vengsarkar said: "I am still not convinced about the No 4, 5 batsman slots but I hope Vijay Shankar plays well in coming games. Kedar Jadhav also, I hope he does well. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan they are class players and are in great form as well so that augurs well for Indian team."
"The two spinners are also very important in this format of the game. Bowlers need to pick up wickets in middle overs and spinners are performing very well for India."
Speaking at the launch of Indian Tennis Cricket League. Vengsarkar said that he started playing cricket with a tennis ball. He also said that new skills can be learnt while playing tennis-ball cricket. He said, "Reverse sweep was inspired by watching tennis ball cricket. I was talking to Wasim Akram in Dublin, and their fast bowlers have picked up their skills from tennis cricket ball. The skill set is different and its only picking up to become bigger and better. I myself have started my career playing with the tennis ball."
"This platform will give exposure to players and will help them to achieve their dreams. Alot of tennis ball players are now playing in various T20 leagues," said Deepak Chauhan, director of Sports 360 degree, the organisers of the league.
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Kohli was involved in two half-century partnerships – one with opener Devdutt Padikkal (33 off 33 balls) and Shivam Dube (22 off 14 balls) for the fifth wicket, an unbeaten 76-run stand, which powered the total.
Both teams made a lot of tactical blunders throughout the 40 overs, so much so that towards the climax, it seemed both were trying their best to lose. But in the end, Punjab had the last laugh by chasing down 172 on the final ball of the match.
Players like Gayle and de Villiers represent the fast-fading soul of T20 cricket - the flashes of genius, the parody of patience, the ripping of rulebooks, the measured mayhem. They might never be as functional as the Kohlis and Rahuls, but their batting is born from the intoxicating marriage of dominance and dysfunction.