On Monday evening, a West Indian batsman captured the essence of Rohit Sharma through an intriguing comparison with Virat Kohli. “In our team, we don’t mind Virat scoring or not getting out as he doesn’t hurt you the way Rohit does. There are times when Rohit is batting, I think, ‘I should just maybe stop playing cricket’. That’s how he makes you feel. That’s the impact he has.”
Kohli wouldn’t take offence at that statement as he himself has spoken about the initial days when he saw Rohit bat. “Everyone was talking about this new player Rohit. I was thinking, ‘hum be hain new player, no one is talking about me’. There was this T20 world cup and when I saw his batting, I went like this (Kohli gestures how he shrunk physically as he watched in awe). ‘Beta, aaj ke baad kuchh nahi bolna!’ That’s when I understood what people were talking about. Amazing. I haven’t seen anyone time better than him,” Kohli says in the Breakfast with Champions show.
All that wickedly delicious batting was on display in the fourth ODI when India cruised to a crushing 224-run win. On a dry hot afternoon, with the skin burning in the stands, it was clear that India would score big after winning the toss, but who could make one forget the inclement weather and trigger some joy? Undoubtedly, Rohit. Luckily, he obliged.
With its numerous cameras prowling the arena, sometimes television cameras don’t linger long on a batsman at a stance. They should with Rohit. The stillness is quite something. He almost freezes, as if it were possible. Just the arms and the bat twitches a bit as the bowler runs in, but the head and the upper body stay nearly dead still. It’s easy to see that insane balance flow through in his shots. No wonder sometimes he hit a moving ball as if they were a stationary object.
West Indies erred by bowling far too short early on against him. On this pitch, seriously? When it was just outside off, he would lean back and caress it through backward point. At one point, they had three men behind the point on the off-side and he was still threading the gap. He would let the ball come to him, and more often than not make contact as the ball was about to pass his body. Late.
On other occasions when it was on his body, he either chose the conventional pull or the check-pull when he would stop the bat flow as soon as it made contact with the ball, helping it fly square of the wicket, leaving two fielders on either side of square-leg as mute witnesses. And on and on he went along, without much fuss. There were a couple of occasions when he did make you wonder how he would fare on slightly spicier pitches. Kemar Roach got the ball to straighten just outside off and Rohit pushed at it, edging it just short of the lunging slip fielder. In between the two edges, he smoked a pulled six.
Then there was Ambati Rayudu, India’s new No.4. He is one of the rare Indian batsmen who can be almost all arms in his stroke-play and is never short of imagination. He is one of the few Indians who can shuffle across the stumps to sweep a fast-medium bowler to exploit the gaps on the leg-side. At one point, Jason Holder had three men inside the ring on the onside, preferring to cast a net of boundary riders on the off side. And so it wasn’t a surprise when Roach hurled it well outside off but Rayudu had shimmied across to sweep it to the leg-side boundary. He is also the type who doesn’t mind going down the track to spin and seam – and there were a few boundaries that he picked up with that approach. His inside-out cover drive has been a trademark right from his growing-up years and that too was unfurled, to the delight of the crowd.
India still needs to fix their batting line-up after Rayudu — Dhoni was promoted in this game, with Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja following and it might take a few more games for players to seize their spots. Dhoni helped himself to a couple of fours, a glide through point and a glance but when he tried to go for the big hit, the timing eluded him. He skied a ball towards mid-off where it was grassed and tamely, turned a full ball on his legs to short fine-leg and trudged back to the hut.
India, though, would perhaps be happier that their bowling came through in this game, especially left-arm Khaleel Ahmed. He was skiddy, accurate and at times even managed to hold the ball into the right-handers. The combination was enough to fetch him three wickets. With the top order crumbling without a fight, the contest whimpered out all too quickly. The pre-series stereotypical prediction was this pattern to repeat every match but to the Windies’ credit, this was the first one-sided match of the series.