BANGLADESH TOUR OF INDIA, 2019
Rohit Sharma marked his 100th T20I appearance with a whirlwind 85 off 43 which downed Bangladesh and kept the series alive ©Getty
“If the pitch is good, you will see a different Team India approach tomorrow,” Rohit Sharma had said ahead of the Rajkot T20I. The pitch was indeed good, so was the approach and so was Rohit. Midway through the run chase on a warm evening, the game was already done and dusted. India had made 113 in 10 overs and needed just 41 to complete an annihilation and send a statement after the loss in the series opener.
India have been reluctant to accommodate both Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav at the same time in the XI, in order to provide more depth to the batting line-up. Despite that change in tactic, they have been quite conservative in their approach at least at the start of an innings which has invited criticism.
And when they went on to lose the first game against a weakened Bangladesh, the criticism only grew louder prompting Rohit to make that remark about India’s approach. Staying true to his words, he led the charge himself and put on a spectacle in front of a packed audience who kept chanting his name throughout the course of a blitz that saw him fetch 85 off just 43 deliveries.
The Shikhar Dhawans of the world need Rohit Sharmas at the other end at times to get away with their limitations. The left-hander, who seems to be on borrowed time in this format, was the silent spectator once again. This time though, he had reasons to be muted. Rohit, who had built a career in 50-over cricket by taking his time to settle down, was in no mood for a cautious start here.
There’s a reason why he is India’s most accomplished T20 cricketer. From being a part of the inaugural T20 World Cup win, to numerous IPL titles as captain, to delivering with the bat from the middle order for Mumbai Indians and as an opener for India, Rohit has done it all. And it was only fitting that he became the first Indian to play 100 T20Is. He wasn’t going to let Bangladesh gatecrash his party, was he?
The wicket was a beauty. And if presented with a beauty, he had vowed that the team would be more adventurous. In the space of eight deliveries at one stage in the powerplay, he hammered four fours and a six. He came out extremely focused and showed loads of intent right from the start as India raced to 63 in the first six overs. 46 of them had come from the 32-year-old’s bat. Dhawan tried to make ground by slamming Aminul Islam for a couple of fours immediately after the powerplay but how can you actually match up to a 23-ball fifty when you’ve made only half those runs in just three fewer deliveries up until that point?
It was perhaps the anger of having suffered a loss as captain against a side that’s been desperately trying to make a mark in the format. It was perhaps the frustration of confronting a media contingent that posed all sorts of questions regarding India’s flawed approach. One more loss would have meant he had to go through all of that again, which was probably why he was having none of it this time.
Bangladesh had already been butchered in a gentle fashion by some of the most exquisite shots you would ever see. It was the familiar mode he enters once he crosses the three-figure mark in one-day cricket. In this case, he had already tried everything, including a paddle, within the first six overs. By the end of the ninth over, he had tonked two at the sightscreen and one over deep midwicket. Much to Bangladesh’s chagrin, there was a lot more carnage was in store.
Mosaddek Hossain was the unfortunate bowler. The first ball was dispatched over deep midwicket. Second one was hit over fine leg, and then the crowd at deep midwicket saw the ball travel in the beautiful night sky towards them for the second time in three deliveries.
The crowd knew there was a real possibility of a Yuvraj Singh encore. Rohit wanted it too and was shaping himself to launch one more. Every time he sent one beyond the ropes, the fireworks were set off inside the stadium. He was just toying with the spinner by now. The ‘Rohit Rohit’ chants grew louder. There was a big heave off the fourth delivery as well, but it was only an inside edge. Not many men show disappointment while batting on 76 off 33 deliveries. But Rohit did.
Dhawan was gone in the next over and so too was the marauder two overs later, much to the crowd’s disappointment who could only boo after Mohammad Mithun took a catch at the boundary. It was a bit of an anti-climax indeed as the man who timed them all on the night failed to put away a long hop when he was 15 short of a century.
A 100 on his 100th appearance would have been the perfect icing on the cake. The disappointment immediately turned into one of the best receptions you would ever see on Indian soil. After all, he had enthralled them by adding six more to his growing collection of sixes.
“I knew the conditions were perfect and there was no turn on offer, all I wanted to do was remain stationed and tonk the ball,” he said after the game.