The hearts of the Eden Gardens crowd have belonged to VVS Laxman since March 2001. That love affair is immortal. But as India’s most iconic cricket venue celebrated 150 years of existence, a young man, with a touch of Laxman’s lazy elegance, gave it a present that immortalized it further.
Rohit Sharma decorated Eden’s rich hat with a colourful yet classy feather. He crushed world records and made the act look graceful. He created pandemonium with serenity in his demeanour. He performed brute carnage in the most elegant manner. It was like he was playing a magical tune of death on a violin. They knew it was killing them but they couldn’t help but enjoy the music.
His 264-run innings off 173 balls in the fourth ODI against Sri Lanka was everything that defines Rohit Sharma the batsman. It started out as a cautious vigil, made its way towards solidity, grew to be a show of confidence and then flourished to reach the pinnacle of mesmerizing display of artistry. He flayed the Sri Lankan bowlers ruthlessly but it never looked crude. His shots flowed from his bat; they didn’t jerk off it.
After breaking the world record of the highest individual score in ODIs, as Rohit settled for a chat with bcci.tv, he remembered his last chat with us at the same venue, just after he had scored 177 on his Test debut last year, against West Indies. The calmness in his voice was similar and his words equally honest.
Here’s what Rohit Sharma said about his incredible feat.
How can someone who is coming back after a two-month layoff bat like that?
It was important for me to get back into my groove because I was feeling a little out of place initially having not played international cricket for two months. Ajinkya’s knock – the quick fire 28 he got – really helped me settle down and allowed me to take my time. It was crucial for me to just get the feel of the game and play myself in. It may sound like it’s only a two-month gap but coming after an injury (finger) is never easy. So, this was the thinking initially and then once I got to 50, I started to play quite fluently. I know my game well and the idea was to get to a little landmark and then build it on from there. I am glad that I could bat for 50 overs.
You really opened up in your shots during the batting powerplay. Was that the momentum change for you?
Absolutely. It was a brilliant move by the captain. It was Virat’s initiative to take the powerplay then. The thing with powerplay is that they can go either way and you have to be careful. It can drift the game in favour of the opposition if you lose too many wickets, and if you take calculated risks, it can put you on top. You can’t just go berserk in powerplay, you have to bat sensibly. We played some proper cricketing shots and didn’t slog our way. I have played a lot here and I understand this ground. The outfield is quite fast and once you pierce the gap, it’s a boundary.
Did it also take your mind off the fact that you were approaching your century and made you bat freely?
I did bat freely but honestly, I wasn’t thinking about the century. When you’re out there batting, you only think about putting as big a total on the board as possible. Once we batted for 10-15 overs, we knew this was at least a 300-run pitch. Then after 25-30 overs, the runs were coming really quickly and then we realized we could go for 350 here. The target kept on increasing from there.
When you are batting like that, do you get to a point where you don’t have to think much and just bat?
My approach is a bit different. I like to be constantly aware about the surroundings. Even when I am in that mode I keep calculating things in my mind. I try to pick out bowlers that I can hit. I knew that a couple of their bowlers bowl really good yorkers. So, I had to think about how and where I need to play my shots against them. All those things went on in my mind right through the innings.
In the 48th over you picked a ball outside the off-stump wide marker and picked it up for a six on the on-side. Please tell me how you decided to play that shot. It was incredible!
He had only two fielders inside the circle and so I just wanted to clear them. I might not be as powerful as Dhoni but picking the gaps and clearing the fielders is my strength. I just backed it and it paid off.