MELBOURNE: For someone who’s waited four years, desperate to play a part in the 50-over World Cup, Rohit Sharma is still a man waiting to make the most of an opportunity. Soft dismissals aren’t helping his cause. A horribly-attempted pull against Pakistan (15), trying to drive away from his body against the West Indies (7), an inside-edge against Ireland (64) and an edge leading to a catch in the covers against Zimbabwe (16) have strung together Rohit’s World Cup story so far. Only against South Africa, it was plain unlucky the way he fell.
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Cricketers don’t score an ODI double hundred just like that. They do it because they’re special. Rohit has done it twice. In fact, skipper MS Dhoni promoted Rohit to the top of the order, ahead of Ajinkya Rahane, keeping his affinity for big scores in mind. But the batsman’s affinity for soft, lazy-looking dismissals would be playing on Dhoni’s mind now.
It’s a risk the team management took and they’re keenly waiting for it to pay off.
Just before the World Cup was scheduled to begin, Rohit cracked 138 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) against Australia. India lost the match but the batsman had signalled his intent to score big on these soils, the way he’s done it back home. On Thursday, Melbourne will provide him another opportunity – on the same track he batted on for his 138 – to return to form. In Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh have experience; in Taskin Ahmed, a youngster who can be effective with swing; in Rubel Hossain, quality pace. So it’s crucial for India that Rohit gets going.
The quarterfinal against Bangladesh on March 19 will not be just another knockout but an opportunity for both teams to revisit the memories of 2007 – soul-lifting for one side, shocking for the other. If India lose, the prospect of them getting psyched out when playing the neighbours anytime in the future will be immense.
A very impressive middle-order has kept a few aspects of India’s batting hidden so far. Of these, the trouble brewing in Rohit’s position is the most worrisome. “One good day and any team can beat anyone,” warns Bangladesh allrounder Shakib-al Hasan. For someone who knows a thing or two about causing upsets, Shakib’s experience will tell him who to go after first when India’s innings begins.
On Tuesday, the entire Indian contingent arrived for training at the MCG. Rohit did everything that cricketers do at training sessions – catch and throw, fielding practice, stretching out, playing football and more. The only thing he didn’t bother doing was bat.
Bangladesh will clearly bank on their bowlers to get one foot into the game and the bowlers in turn will target the weakest link on top of India’s batting order to get under their skin.Here’s where Rohit will find a challenge to counter – his biggest so far in the World Cup.
Four years of waiting for such an occasion should provide enough inspiration. “I can’t wait to go out there and do my best,” he told before flying down to Australia. Now’s his time.