In a tournament where match-winners and taking wickets in the middle overs are crucial components, India have excelled in both categories.
India and Australia are the two teams 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 quarterfinal 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 away his wicket. In constructing his foundation-building century at the MCG, he harnessed those first two traits and dismissed the latter two with a determination not seen from him before.
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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. He denied himself any expansive shots and still scored at a run rate near ninety. It was one of the great innings of self-restraint played by a batsman who could be extravagant, bordering on reckless at times.
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 imagine the frustration the Indian selectors feel but I think we all have to just accept that is, and will continue to be, Rohit Sharma. I have often said about Mark Waugh, who had similar tendencies, that it was part of his attraction. 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. As much as Rohit was the star and Raina played a strong supporting role, the bowlers also played their part.I think the improvement has coincided with two things; MS Dhoni’s resurgence as a captain and the arrival of Mohit Sharma. Where Dhoni seemed to lack interest in proceedings leading up to the World Cup, it appears he’s been galvanised by the thought of defending his title abroad. His pro-active approach has the bowlers thinking about taking wickets instead of "how can I stop these batsmen from scoring heavily" and the difference is marked.