Sydney: In a tournament where match winners and taking wickets in the middle overs are a crucial component, India has excelled in both categories.
India and Australia are the two teams in the tournament with the most match winners, which means they’re not relying on a small group of players to conjure up victory in every match. And it was one of India’s major match winners, Rohit Sharma, who showed another side to his temperament in compiling a defining quarter-final century.
Rohit has been renowned in equal parts for his sublime skill, breathtaking shots played with exquisite timing and a tendency towards laziness and a frustrating ability to gift his wicket to the opposition. In constructing his foundation building century at the MCG, Sharma harnessed those first two traits and dismissed the latter two with a determination not seen from him before.
Throughout Rohit’s excellent innings, I was reminded of the discipline displayed by Aravinda de Silva in the 1996 World Cup final. Aravinda scored a century of class and determination to help his team win the trophy and although he denied himself any expansive shots and still scored at a run rate near 90. It was one of the great innings of self-restraint played by a batsman who could be extravagant, bordering on reckless at times.
India opener Rohit Sharma plays down the leg side against Bangladesh in the World Cup quarter-final at Melbourne on Thursday. Aravinda de Silva (inset). Pic/Getty Images
Rohit was every bit as disciplined and mostly denied himself the signature lofted shots into the stands or the careless uppish shot through the infield that so often brings one of his promising innings to a premature halt.
There was still the frustratingly lazy footwork against a part-time slow bowler early in his innings but that’s nit-picking. It’s only annoying because you know the guy is good enough to dismiss that type of bowler from the attack in a flurry of well-placed boundaries, hit through the field. I can only imagine the frustration the Indian selectors feel but I think we all have to just accept that that is, and will continue to be, Rohit Sharma.
I have often said about Mark Waugh, who had similar tendencies. You went to the ground not knowing if he would waste a golden opportunity or create some magic and when it was the latter, you forgave the former. Rohit must be doing something right; if he’s in the same conversation as Mark Waugh and Aravinda, he’s in esteemed company.