Champions Trophy 2017: Rohit Sharma's past heroics, IPL win confidence will give him momentum
Rohit may not have been in the best of form, but his leadership skills led Mumbai Indians to their third title win, which will give him momentum in the Champions Trophy as well.
Rohit Sharma is one of the most unique stories in Indian cricket. The experience of being a Rohit Sharma supporter is one that is not very different from a Pakistani, or a West Indian cricket fan. In other words, it is a bittersweet one.
For someone whose talent has been hailed ever since he made his first appearance in international cricket in 2007, Rohit took an awfully long time to convert his talent into runs. At least, that was the story till the summer of 2013.
After about six years of inconsistency with the bat, it was the then captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to promote him to the top of the batting order worked wonders for him. The experiment was first carried out in the 2013 edition of the Champions Trophy, which was supposed to be the last edition of the ‘Mini World Cup’ before the ICC decided to bring the tournament back this year, and Rohit was partnered with young Shikhar Dhawan.
Rohit responded immediately by hitting two half-centuries, against South Africa and West Indies respectively. While his opening partner was the standout performer from his team throughout the tournament, Rohit vindicated his captain’s faith with an impressive outing.
Things got better in the coming months. It was the seven-match series against Australia at home that turned out to be his dream tournament. He slammed an unbeaten 209 in the seventh, and series-deciding match, becoming only the third batsman to score an ODI double-hundred. The effort helped India record a memorable series win.
The efforts in the ODI series against Australia earned him his much-awaited Test debut, and he immediately slammed two centuries in long form cricket, including his career-best 177 in the first Test in Kolkata. He became only the second Indian batsman to score back-to-back centuries in his first two Test innings, with Sourav Ganguly being the first.
His greatest-ever innings though had to be his second ODI double-ton — something which has been achieved only by him till date. It was a one-day series against Sri Lanka, a last-minute patch-up following West Indies’ dramatic pull-out earlier. Having been dropped on 4, he punished the hapless Sri Lankan bowlers by adding another 260 runs to his name. He was ultimately dismissed on the last delivery of the Indian innings, but not before amassing 264 runs off 173 balls – the highest individual score in the history of ODI cricket.
Having missed out on a slot in the squad for the 2011 World Cup, he finally made his debut in the biggest tournament in the sport in 2015, finishing as the second-highest run-getter in the tournament for India with 330 runs.
His 137 against Bangladesh in the quarter-final was an exemplary innings, though it did not come without its share of controversy. Rohit holed out to deep midwicket off a full toss from Rubel Hossain while batting on 90, but was given not out, with the delivery being adjudged illegal owing to height. As Bangladesh went on to lose the match by 109 runs, the no ball became a massive controversy, with ICC president Mustafa Kamal, a Bangladeshi citizen himself, joining the chorus against India as well as the ICC over the "foul play" that had been committed against them.
The 2015-16 season saw him touch peak form once again. He became only the second Indian cricketer to score a century in all formats of the game with 106 in Dharamsala in the 1st T20I against South Africa. That was followed by a 150 against the same opposition in the ODI series, as well as a 171 not out against Australia in the latter’s backyard at the turn of the year, though in a losing effort.
The home Test season saw the Mumbai batsman put up gritty knocks in the middle-order, and his 82 against New Zealand on a tricky Eden Gardens surface deserves a special mention in this regard. He walked out to bat at a time when the hosts were reeling after an early collapse, and led a fightback that helped India post a daunting 376-run target, with the win eventually coming India’s way.
In the ODI series against the Black Caps that followed, Rohit strained his hamstring while batting in the fifth and final ODI in Vizag, which then ruled him out of the remainder of the home season and he had to fly to London for a surgery. His wife Ritika described those months as the “hardest six months of his life”.
He finally returned to competitive cricket in the Vijay Hazare Trophy earlier this year, though it was only in the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) that he truly returned to the sport. He may not have been in the best of form, finding the occasional half-century in the course of the tournament, but his leadership skills led Mumbai Indians to their third title win, which will give him momentum in the Champions Trophy as well.
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"We wanted him to bat till the end because of those innovative shots that he has, it was quite handy towards the end," Rohit said.
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