Few doubted Rohit Sharma's natural talent. What was worrisome was whether the youngster was getting frustrated with his inconsistent run.
Sixty-one one-dayers before he arrived in the West Indies was proof of the selectors’ faith, since they picked him in 2007 as a 20-year-old. His classy knocks helped carry India to the inaugural World Twenty20 title.
But just two hundreds and five fifties show he did not do justice to his potential. He had just one fifty in 16 innings after his second hundred, against Sri Lanka in Zimbabwe last year, when he walked out to bat in Monday's ODI against WI.He finished with a match-winning 68 not out, the innings as much a statement to himself that he had bounced back from the blow of being left out of the World Cup. That he regained form in the domestic circuit and IPL with superior fitness helped him stay on his feet in Port-of -Spain’s sapping humidity.
Rohit explained the low of injuries, poor form and questions about his attitude, but was confident that he had overcome the uncertainties as he glowed in pride at being part of the world champions’ first win. The switch to the Mumbai Indians this season and a decent run with the bat, and useful slow bowling, lifted Rohit.
On Monday, he played some brilliant wristy shots, a whip past cover against fast bowler Ravi Rampaul underlining how he is seen as a special talent.
“People have been asking me (about the World Cup miss), but I have to move on,” he said. “Today was a perfect day. It wasn’t an easy track, it was slow and turning a bit.”
Rohit displayed the new resolve, having gone in to bat in the 16th over but did not hit a boundary till the 35th over. He realised that eventually the numbers against his name count.
“I believe being positive is important. I have to play my cricket, not think about all those things. However, how much talented you are, at the end of the day you have to score runs.
“This is the most important phase of my career…I am glad I could do the job when the chips were down.”
Rohit said criticism had made him stronger. “You have to take positives out of it. The more people talk, the more confident I get. My job is not to lose focus, but remain calm.”
With many senior players absent from the ODI squad, Rohit, who looks upto Yuvraj Singh, understands the responsibility. “You have seen many good players who have struggled initially and matured later on. I am maturing as a player.”
There is no doubt where his sights are set — the Test middle order where retirements will happen over the next two seasons. “This will be the tour where I can set benchmarks.”