What Eden Gardens is to VVS Laxman, it is slowly turning into the same for Rohit Sharma, albeit in shorter formats.
Whatever the players might say, the stakes in a warm-up game are never as high as in a competitive one. Sharma, however, has been able to stay motivated.
So when he struck a 57-ball 98 against West Indies on Thursday, it didn’t come as a surprise. If it’s Eden Gardens, he has to fire. And strictly from a team’s point of view, Sharma’s Eden Gardens form puts India in good frame of mind, given that they face Pakistan in Kolkata on March 19 and till now, they have never won an ODI against the arch-rivals in that venue.
More assuring for Sharma and Indian batsmen is the word from Sourav Ganguly that pitches at Eden will be flat and full of runs.
India are lined up to play four league matches — in Nagpur, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mohali. Apart from possibly Mohali, all other venues will have flat decks, full for runs. Bangalore has the shortest boundaries and hence hitting sixes there won’t be an issue for Sharma. Same goes for Eden Gardens.
Sharma’s most productive shot is the pull. And that is purely because of the fraction of a second more he gets on subcontinent tracks.
No wonder, he has never really complained about the Eden pitch. “It was a typical Kolkata wicket. There was no change in it. It’s nice, I love coming here,” said Sharma after Thursday’s match.
Sharma hit nine fours and seven sixes. Most came in the midwicket region and the corridor between gully and extra-cover. His main shots were the pull, off the hip and the guide between gully and cover. He doesn’t play as straight as Virat Kohli or Ajinkya Rahane, but that also makes him an unpredictable batsman in the death overs.
The most comforting part is that Sharma takes little time to switch gears. Both Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have said before that they complement each other.
On Thursday, it started off just like that at the Eden.
With Dhawan off to a great start, Sharma was happy playing the second fiddle with a strike rate of about 60. Till the time Dhawan blasted fours, Sharma was content rotating the strike. Only after his dismissal did Sharma come out of his shell.
From around 60, Sharma’s strike rate reached over 150 just as he reached fifty. And had it not been for some clever bowling by Jerome Taylor, Sharma could have raised the next 50 in less than 30 balls. He nevertheless made an emphatic statement, one that could boost India’s confidence.