T20 World Cup: Rohit Sharma roadshow has the Aussies in awe in St Lucia

Meanwhile, the Men in Blue get a chance at redemption in the semi-final against England

Rohit Sharma is the highest scorer in the T20 Internationals with 4,165 runs (photo: @Mufaddalvohra/X)
Rohit Sharma is the highest scorer in the T20 Internationals with 4,165 runs (photo: @Mufaddalvohra/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The morning after, the cricketing fraternity is still talking about the joy ride Indian skipper Rohit Sharma took ODI world champions Australia for, scoring 92 off 41 balls. An unbelievable effort against the likes of Mitchell Starc & Co, which Sharma would possibly place far ahead of his five international centuries in the T20 format.  

The urge to paint his effort as a redemption for the humiliation of 19 November last year in Ahmedabad is strong among the Indian fans — that hurt on the hitman’s face after the defeat in that 50-over World Cup final is still a vivid memory. There might have been a few more items on the agenda for Rohit Sharma, though, like avenging the way Australia denied his team the World Test Championship (WTC) last year; but then, sheer anger or hurt cannot drive a masterclass like the one he delivered at St Lucia.

It takes class and the ability to assess situations the way only a veteran can — and not just in that fateful Starc over which Sharma milked for 29 runs, but also against virtually all the Aussie bowlers. Looking at the bigger picture, one must not lose sight of the fact that while India’s nightmare in the 50-over World Cup final unfolded before an expectant 90,000-plus home crowd, yesterday's innings will surely get talked of as one of the most memorable ones in the history of this tournament.

‘’The century was not on my mind at all;, I just wanted to bat at the same tempo,’’ Rohit said in the innings break — and this has been the essence of his craft in recent times. In the same selfless manner, he had tried to guide the fortunes of the Men in Blue in the 50-over World Cup. On Monday, 24 June, he knew all too well that given the perfect batting conditions at the picturesque Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, India would need a total of 200-plus to pressurise the Australians.

What looked extraordinary, even by Rohit Sharma’s standards, was that he seemed almost able to read the bowlers' minds and know what the next delivery would be! For someone who has been always blessed with ample time to play his shots, such anticipation meant he got into position for his array of pull, drive, slog sweeps and a crouched pick-up shot almost at will — obtaining seven boundaries and eight maximums.

The sense of awe, bordering on admiration, among the Aussie bowlers was a departure from the usual challenging stare or swear words — one could almost see Starc’s lips curl into a ‘wow’ as he walked back to get his cap from the umpire after an over which saw Sharma hammering him for 6, 6, 4, 6, dot, (a wide) and 6. The battle-scarred left-arm fast bowler did avenge his humiliation by denying Sharma what could have been one of the most spectacular centuries ever in a World T20 game; but by then, the damage had been done.

It would be worthwhile to do a bit of number-crunching on Rohit Sharma at this point.

As someone who has now played in all editions of the tournament since 2007, he is the highest scorer in the T20 Internationals with 4,165 runs, followed by Babar Azam (4,145) and Virat Kohli (4,103) — not to speak of him being the first batter to cross 200 T20I sixes.

Looking ahead now, the Men in Blue have another shot at redemption when they take on champions England in the semi-final on Thursday, 27 June. It won't be easy. Jos Buttler’s men had their pride badly dented in the 2022 semi-finals before going on to beat Pakistan in the final.

However, tomorrow is another day!

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