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Sai Mohan, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, November 08, 2013
Rohit Sharma waited 2,329 days, 108 ODIs, 36 T20Is, 97 IPL games, 11 CLT20 games and 50-odd first-class matches before making his Test debut. His arrival in 2007 coincided with the start of the T20 era and most were impressed by his ability to hit, and not by his greatest asset — time at the crease. Rohit is in the mould of ‘Mr Lazy Elegance’ — Inzamam-ul Haq. That’s why Ian Chappell was floored when he saw Rohit bat for the first time during the 2009 World Twenty20. Later, he would often ask, “Why isn’t Rohit playing,” as India tasted eight consecutive overseas defeats.

Ask any coach in the Mumbai circuit and they’d tell you Rohit was the most talented batsman they had seen since Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. But it took a while for Rohit to digest that many detractors felt otherwise.

Rohit is finally a Test player and he became the first Indian since Mohamamd Azharuddin (in 1984-85) to score hundred on debut at Eden Gardens. Rohit (127*) and R Ashwin (92*) had added 198 runs for the sixth-wicket when India drew stumps on 354-6.

They got together when skipper MS Dhoni’s tendency to drive full-length balls, with his feet planted on the crease, left the hosts at 156-6, still trailing the West Indies by 78 runs. Ashwin played the shots, Rohit bode his time — waiting 165 balls before stepping out to a spinner.

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Hussey, an idol
Not many would have a Michael Hussey for inspiration. “He (Hussey) waited till 30 to make his Test debut. I am no different,” said Rohit, when asked how he gathered the drive while others debuted ahead of him.

Hussey too scored a debut ton before a hall-of-fame career that ended with a batting average of 51. Now, Rohit wants the same, and more. “I knew that once I get an opportunity, I’d make the most out of it. I knew the ability was there and I had nothing to worry about. I am happy what’s happening to me now,” said the 26-year-old.

Rohit missed out on a Test cap in 2010 by injuring himself minutes before the toss, but realises it is better late than never. “I really don’t know whether it means more now (to debut after all these years). Whenever happens, you have to be proud. I was disappointed in 2010, but it doesn’t matter that the debut has come now. It has finally come,” he said.

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Right at the top
The previous time Rohit laced up his boots, he scored an ODI double hundred. By rating this knock higher, he revealed his priorities. “That was special. But this is even more special because it’s a Test debut hundred. If the team wins, it’ll be the icing on the cake. I just wanted to continue where I let off in Bangalore. If someone’s in good form, you must take that responsibility while going into bat.”

The ‘oversized boy’ who, behind closed doors, was too cynical in his views of the game, showed up drunk to practice many a time (that infuriated Mr Vengsarkar!) and was dubbed careless, lazy and irresponsible at different stages, is now guarding against complacency even while the cricketing world raises a toast to his incredible feats achieved in the space of five days.

“I am happy but we have a game on our hands. If we can play on until lunch tomorrow, we can get a good lead and put them under pressure. Now’s not the time to celebrate.”

Rohit sure has come a long way.