On Thursday afternoon when the Indian team walked out to board their bus for the MCG, an Indian cricket fan shouted out to Rohit Sharma - “Get a hundred Rohit, a big one”. Sharma looked in the fan’s direction; gave a smirk and quietly walked into the bus. At the MCG against Bangladesh, Sharma met that fan’s demands that noon when he notched up his maiden World Cup hundred, his seventh overall in ODIs. A crowd of fifty one thousand was treated to a batting specimen that had calmness, patience, composure and panache written all over it.
Along with Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit strung a strong opening stand. After Dhawan’s departure and two more quick wickets, Sharma showed his patient self. With Suresh Raina, he put up a 122-run stand for the fourth wicket and played perfect foil to his partner as he changed the course of the game with a quick-fire half century. With time, Rohit has realised the importance of constructing an innings and put a lot of thought into his batting that has helped him rake up numbers of tremendous magnitude. After helping India cruise into the semi-final, Rohit spoke about his ‘special’ ton in a chat with bcci.tv.
Where would you place this hundred in your cricketing career?
It should be right up there. A maiden World Cup hundred is always special. It came at the right time and in a crucial game for the team. But I do not place my innings and knocks in any order. I feel all hundreds you get are really special. Centuries don’t happen every day and whenever you get one, you cherish it. What is more satisfying is the situation in which I got that hundred and most importantly that we won the game in the end, which is what matters. I cannot describe how special this World Cup campaign is for me. It is a very important tournament and this is a precious stage for me.
Two centuries at the MCG now – what is it about this ground that gets the best out of you?
I enjoy batting here. It is a good wicket to bat on. Today after the rain break the wicket became a lot better to bat on and the ball came nicely on to the bat. Also, I love the fact that there are a lot of people watching the game. The last two games we played here had a humungous crowd and today we had over fifty thousand people watching it. To perform in front of such a big crowd always gives you immense pleasure.
Do you set yourself small targets while batting?
Not really. Today the plan was simple and it was to bat as long as possible. I didn’t segregate my innings or plan as to how much I should get at the end of 10 or 20 overs. I knew that no matter how much you end up getting after 30 or 40 overs, you can always bank on the last ten overs. We lost important wickets at crucial times and it was important for one batsman to control the innings and stay till the end, which is what I did. How many deliveries I would take to get to the hundred was not important. It was important for a set batsman to stay till the end and I did just that.
Over the years, have you realised the importance of being patient initially before going for your shots?
That is the pattern of my batting. I like to take time initially and assess the conditions. I try to gauge the wicket behaviour, the shots I can play on that wicket and the ones I can cut down. I plan and pace my innings accordingly. The hundreds I have got of late have been similar hundreds where I take time initially and then switch gears. There is no mental approach to switching gears. It is about timing certain shots according to the condition of the game. My job was not over after getting to a hundred. I still had a lot of overs left and once I got my century I was focused on helping the team get a good score.
You had a strike-rate of over hundred in your last 50 balls. Is it a conscious effort to up the ante once you are batting in your 70s?
The wicket was really good and it was about backing yourself and going for the shots irrespective of the score you had against your name. I was holding a good shape while batting today and I tried to find gaps. I was not trying to hit the ball hard because it is a big ground and it was important to play to my strengths. You do get the odd deliveries that go for sixes. It is about playing according to the situation of the game and modifying your game accordingly.
How crucial was Suresh Raina’s half century in the context of the game?
I think more than my half century at that stage, it was Suresh Raina’s fifty that changed the momentum of the game. He scored at run-a-ball and changed the course of the game playing those shots. It completely put Bangladesh in a different position. They had an upper-hand initially but then Raina just came in and turned it in our favour. His fifty was important in terms of laying a good platform for posting a decent score. Our partnership was crucial after losing three wickets. We, as a batting unit, have always spoken about getting one big 100-run partnership and that partnership put us in a strong position.
How would the team look to take this confidence into the semi-final?
First we need to see who we are playing and then plan accordingly. It will be a huge game and now there is no looking back. We can’t afford any mistakes. All our three departments have done well in the last seven games. We have posted good scores, chased well and the bowlers have picked up 70 wickets in seven games. The fielders too have shown a lot of energy and we are doing well in unison. This shows that our team has a lot of caliber.