What’s common between Deepak Shodhan, Bruce Taylor, Mohammed Azharuddin, Alviro Petersen and Rohit Sharma? They form an elite club of Test debut centurions at the Eden Gardens.
Rohit became the latest entrant yesterday when he not only rescued the hosts from a precarious position, but also took them to a position of strength on Day Two of the first Test against the West Indies. India ended the day on 354-6, thanks largely to Rohit’s unbeaten 127 and R Ashwin’s 92 not out. They enjoy a considerable 120-run lead with the seventh-wicket pair having put on 198 in 50.5 overs.
In a series that has been completely overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell, Rohit’s was an innings that was a wholesome mixture of grit, grace, patience and application.
Sure, Rohit came into the Test riding a crest, having amassed a whopping 491 runs in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia, but as his teammates Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan would testify, circumstances were completely different yesterday when the visitors, defending a modest first innings total of 234 were aiming for India’s jugular.
Off-spinner Shane Shillingford’s (4-130) brilliant spell in the morning resulted in the hosts being reduced to 83-5 before skipper MS Dhoni and Rohit reclaimed lost ground. The duo put on an invaluable 73 runs for the sixth wicket before Dhoni fell to paceman Tino Best for 42.
Ashwin eyes ton
Ashwin, who has been a thorn in the Windies’ flesh in the past couple of years — he recorded his lone Test ton against them at the Wankhede in 2011 — will be eyeing an encore today and needless to say, Darren Sammy’s men will have a tough task to thwart the hosts.
Meanwhile, Rohit added another chapter to his affair with the Eden Gardens: He made his first-class debut here, was handed the Mumbai Indians captaincy here and also won the IPL-VI here. “I am happy I could contribute to the team especially since we had lost the top order without many runs on the board,” he said.
The stylish right-hander scored a double century against Australia last week, and said both innings were dear to him. “The double hundred helped us win the series, whereas the match is still going on here. But a hundred on debut is always very special.”
If things had gone according to plan for one of India’s most elegant batsmen, Rohit would have made his Test debut against South Africa in 2010, but he injured himself on the morning of the match and ever since has struggled to break into the team for the longer format. “I was disappointed in 2010. So my focus was on the match. It does not matter that it has come after three years.”
But, Rohit was mighty relieved to have fulfilled his dream and hoped he and Ashwin would score enough runs to put the Windies under pressure today. “It’s not an easy pitch to bat on as some balls are bouncing and also turning sharply. Our focus is to score as many runs as we can and bat at least till after lunch,” he said.
West Indies (1st innings) 234 all out
India (1st innings) (Overnight 37-0)
S Dhawan b Shillingford 23
Murali Vijay st Ramdin b Shillingford 26
C Pujara c Ramdin b Cottrell 17
S Tendulkar lbw Shillingford 10
Kohli c Powell b Shillingford 3
R Sharma not out 127
MS Dhoni c Ramdin b Best 42
R Ashwin not out 92
Extras (b 4, lb 8, w 1, nb 1) 14
Total (for six wickets in 102 overs) 354
Fall of wickets 1-42, 2-57, 3-79, 4-82, 5-83, 6-156
Tino Best 14-0-53-1
Sheldon Cottrell 15-3-53-1
Shane Shillingford 41-8-130-4
V Permaul 20-1-54-0
Darren Sammy 12-1-52-0
The number of Indian players to score a century on Test debut, with Rohit Sharma becoming the latest player to accomplish this feat. He also became the second Indian after Shikhar Dhawan to do so this year. The complete list is as follows: Lala Amarnath, Deepak Shodhan, Kripal Singh, Abbas Ali Baig, Hanumant Singh, Gundappa Viswanath, Surinder Amarnath, Mohammed Azharuddin, Pravin Amre, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan and now Rohit Sharma.
The number of times Sachin Tendulkar has been dismissed leg before wicket. This is by far the highest for any batsman in Test cricket with the second being Graham Gooch with 50 LBWs.
The number of runs added by Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin is the fifth highest for India for the seventh wicket. It is also the third highest against West Indies and third highest at Kolkata.