India's Rohit Sharma celebrates Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith(Reuters)
India's Rohit Sharma celebrates Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith(Reuters)

World Cup 2019: Rohit Sharma’s fifth symphony

An epitome of elegance in scoring his record sixth century, the opener continues to steal the show as India march on
By Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer) | Hindustan Times, Leeds
UPDATED ON JUL 07, 2019 12:09 PM IST

Rohit Sharma. What else is there to say?

His run of form at this World Cup has reached such a point of obscenity that just taking those two words, ‘Rohit’ and ‘Sharma’ in sequence, should be able to tell the story of a match to someone who hasn’t watched a match. Just say ‘Rohit Sharma’ if you didn’t watch Saturday’s game—and note down the reel that runs through your imagination.

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Did you, in your mind’s eye, see the drive through covers or the flick off his pads, struck without harm, that swoosh to the fence and leaves everyone, including Sharma, motionless? Both took place early on in India’s chase of Sri Lanka’s 264, struck in Kasun Rajitha’s first over, to get his wrists going.

 

Or are you a lover of Sharma’s sixes—soaring big hits, yet somehow also shorn of violence? There were two of those as well, both struck in the off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva’s first over, the 17th of the game. And each of those hits took him to different landmarks. Such has been Sharma’s day, week and World Cup.

Off the very first de Silva ball, Sharma stayed in his crease and effortlessly lofted the off-spinner over the mid-off fielder’s turned head and into the stands. It took him to his sixth fifty-plus score of this campaign; but Sharma doesn’t settle for such meaningless milestones. Because, three balls later, Sharma trotted down the track and scooped de Silva straight back over the sightscreen to bring up his 600thrun in this tournament—the second player to get past the mark in the 2019 edition (after Shakib Al Hasan), and the fourth player to do so across World Cups (Sachin Tendulkar and Matthew Hayden are the others).

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But there are always more records for Sharma to break. Always. In the 20th over, a short ball from the shoulder of Thisara Perera was heaved to the ropes beyond midwicket, taking Sharma to a run beyond the hitherto tournament top-scorer, Shakib on 608. The stands in Headingley rose to their feet in applause but Sharma wasn’t bothered in the least. He, after all, was now 35 runs away from a landmark that might just mean something to a man bored of setting new milestones.

It did, for you could see him get a bit emotional in his celebration. In the 29th over, with the contest already buried (India were 183 for no loss), Sharma got into his stance to face Rajitha once more.

The ball was short and steep, but in such imperious touch, Sharma treated it like a long hop, crashing it in front of square for a boundary and bringing up his record fifth hundred in a World Cup, one more than Kumar Sangakkara in the 2015 edition. And sixth over all across World Cups, also a record he now holds along with Tendulkar. But to put that in perspective, Tendulkar took six World Cups to get there. This is Sharma’s second.

Even as he celebrated, KL Rahul stood mid-pitch and bowed to the man who had just struck his third straight century on the bounce. He held his helmet in one hand and the bat in the other, pointing it towards the dressing room, his family and then the fans. In your mind’s eye, didn’t you see that too?

READ | Virat Kohli gives World Cup tickets to Charulata Patel

Somewhere within all of that was an extremely one-sided game of cricket. All but a warm-up game for the already-qualified-for-semis India, Virat Kohli changed his bowling attack—bringing in Ravindra Jadeja for the first time and even giving Kuldeep Yadav another go. But yet again, it was Jasprit Bumrah who shone with the ball, his opening spell even reducing Sri Lanka to 55 for four at one stage.

But there was a revival of sorts with old hand Angelo Mathews striking a hundred (along with Lahiru Thirimanne’s fifty) to give his bowlers a chance.

Even if Sharma hadn’t stepped up to the plate, there’s a great chance that this Indian side would’ve still won without feeling the pressure, given that Rahul pushed on from his string of starts and got his first World Cup century in India’s seven-wicket win.

Rahul, however, will also concede that this match wasn’t about him. Despite him scoring eight runs more than Sharma’s 103. And despite the fact that this match was less a match and more a performance, like the kind that takes place on a stage. This show was called ‘Rohit Sharma’, and the title should tell you all you need to know about it.

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