India thrive on Rohit Sharma’s selflessness

Rohit Sharma vs Aus
Rohit Sharma vs Aus (PC: X)

I was amongst the 110,000 fans at the Narendra Modi stadium on the fateful evening of November 19, 2023 who were silenced by Pat Cummins and his men.

We fans went into a state of coma not when Glenn Maxwell hit the winning runs of Mohammed Siraj in the 43rd over, but when Travis Head dismissed Rohit Sharma in the 10th over off Maxwell with a screamer off a catch.

Millions of cricket-tragics in the country like me went into a state of mourning that evening, no different from the skipper himself who was teary-eyed. His dejected walk back to the pavilion made headlines all over the following morning and he himself had locked himself up in his own world for weeks thereafter.

Our flight back from Ahmedabad to Singapore was tone-deaf and all we heard were the captain’s instructions, seat-belt signs going on and off and the trolley carts being pushed by air hostesses.

Since then, India beat Australia 4-1 in a T20I series, won an ODI series and drew both the T20I and Test series against the Proteas in their backyard. They also won all the three T20Is against Afghanistan before beating England 4-1 in a Test series at home after being 0-1 down. But nothing helped fill the deep-seated void of November 19.

We were entertained to the max by the 66-day IPL in the middle but that didn’t heal us either.

India outplaued Afghanistan to remain unbeaten in the competition. (PC:

Till Monday evening’s (India time) Super Eights clash against Australia, India had won all their six T20I matches, including the warm-up game at the T20 World Cup – a record that makes us feel as nervous as it makes us feel proud.

It reminds us of Team India’s stellar record of 10 back-to-back wins till the encounter with the eventual World Cup champions Australia in the finals; it reminds us of the wholesome team effort and contributions from everyone that made that campaign a memorable and a successful one.

It triggers a pain that all of us felt for Rohit, who not only led his unit from the front at the 2023 World Cup, but in the most selfless way possible. He managed the ideal path of not just piling on tons of runs but scoring them rather quickly to give his team the ideal start. His innings set the tone for the team and his approach signalled that he was playing to win.

In nine of his 11 innings, he scored at least 40 runs, and in eight of them he scored at over run-a-ball. In four of those outings, his strike-rate exceeded 150. He was the second highest run-scorer in the tournament at 597 after Kohli’s 765 but his impact was higher given what his strike-rate was second, just after Maxwell.

His 401 runs in the first Powerplay were a whopping 54 per cent better than the next best, which was David Warner’s 260 and he scored 58 per cent of India’s total runs while he was at the crease.

Pure, aggressive and selfless cricket that not only entertained the Indian fans but the ODI format itself would be grateful to legends like Rohit whose pulls and lofts have kept the format alive.

217 days later, Rohit struck a match-winning 41 ball-92 and his men beat the mighty Australia in the very first opportunity they got to play them in a World Cup since November 19.

Rohit Sharma versus Australia (Image: BCCI)

Compared to the 2023 ODI World Cup, Rohit had a pretty docile campaign with just one half-century against Ireland but what remained constant was his selfless approach at the top which was indicated by strike-rate of 130 before Monday’s game.

The man who is one of only two players to have played all the nine editions of the T20 World Cup, rose to the occasion in St Lucia and made his intentions clear early against Mitchell Starc, when he stepped out to hit him for his maiden boundary through mid-wicket.

Virat Kohli’s early dismissal of a rather disciplined Josh Hazelwood didn’t dampen the skipper’s spirits and he pummeled Starc, the leading wicket-taker in all World Cups. Rohit unsettled the left-arm seamer by hitting him all across the park and tore him apart with a 29 run over, Starc’s most expensive over in T20Is.

He greeted Pat Cummins, the man who had taken two consecutive hat-tricks in his last two outings, with a maximum on his very first delivery – talk about announcing one’s intentions right up front!

One wondered if the ‘Hitman’ was on a mission to avenge the painful evening in Ahmedabad that all of us were subjected to, where Cummins had successfully lived up to his mission of silencing the crowd.

That six was Rohit’s 200th in T20Is and he became the first batsman to get to that mark and thus adding to his tally of the most number of sixes ever hit in international cricket across all formats.

Rohit also became the first Indian batsman to hit five sixes inside the Powerplay in men’s T20Is, once again indicating the skipper’s intent to lead from the front with selflessness.

Post a mini rain halt, Rohit scored another nine runs of Cummins’s first over and brought up his fifty in just 19 balls, personally his quickest half-ton and the fastest half-century in this edition of the T20 World Cup.

It is also the quickest 50 in men’s T20Is against Australia.

For the Latest Sports News: Click Here

Rohit looked in sublime touch against Australia. (PC: ICC)

At this point, the scoreboard indicated that Rohit had scored all but two runs of India’s total, a whopping 96 per cent contribution, a feat that would trigger massive bonus payouts in any industry in the corporate world!

His 360-degree pounding against Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa ensured that the momentum and tempo was high even post the Powerplay and India set the record of scoring their fastest 100 in T20 World Cups, in just 52 balls and beating their previous record by a good 10 deliveries.

That is the measure and impact of Rohit on Team India’s fortunes in white-ball cricket.

The eight sixes that he hammered is also the most by an Indian batsman in a men’s T20 World Cup, bettering Yuvraj Singh’s record of seven maximums set at Kingsmead in 2007.

His match-winning 92 was the second highest score by an Indian batsman in T20 World Cups as well as the second-best individual score by a captain.

Rohit left the scene by the 12th over after having done enough damage to the opposition but what made his innings a spectacle to watch was the way he took the windy conditions in St Lucia into consideration when playing his shots by opening up his stance to hit bowlers all across the park; and also when one contrasts his relatively fluent stroke-play versus that of the batsmen who followed.

Despite a very healthy total of 205, the joint highest against the Australians in T20 World Cups, India’s run rate had fallen from 11.5 to 10.25 post Rohit’s departure, and everyone felt that perhaps the team was 20 short of where we should have landed.

This feeling was further reinforced given the spirited fashion in which Australia responded in the second innings; they bettered India’s Powerplay performance and were looking strong at 65/1 with Travis Head once again poised to be India’s nemesis in a major ICC tournament.

Hardik Pandya and Rohit Sharma vs Bangladesh
Hardik Pandya and Rohit Sharma vs Bangladesh (PC: Debasis Sen)

Despite a stunning spectacle of ‘Axar-asana’ at the deep mid-wicket boundary that got rid of Mitchell Marsh and Kuldeep Yadav outfoxing a bludgeoning Maxwell, Australia were looking at an achievable 78 off 41 balls, with Head looking to do what he does best.

But Rohit bagged a skier of Head that was falsely induced off a dipping off-cutter from the magical hands of Jasprit Bumrah.

It was poetic justice and the beginning of a closure for Rohit and every Indian cricket fan were living it vicariously through their selfless skipper.

The match folded pretty quickly thereafter, and India not only qualified for yet another semi-finals of an ICC tournament but for all practical purposes knocked out their arch-rivals out of the tournament.

India haven’t won the World Cup yet, but somewhere deep within, we Indian fans have healed a bit and have found closure since the silencing debacle on November 19 in Ahmedabad.

Australia have always got the better of India in crunch games in world tournaments – be it the walloping defeat at Johannesburg in 2003,the humiliating defeat in the 2015 semi-finals at Sydney, the crushing WTC final performance in 2023 or the ODI World Cup final later that year.

Finally, Monday’s thumping victory seems like a payback of sorts, retaliation and counte-rattack in a truly Australian mode.

Whilst Rohit and his men prepare for the semi-finals against England, Indian fans should take a moment to rejoice through all the hilarious memes, reelz and headlines that will flood our feeds; we should all observe a moment of silence to reflect on the 187 cricketing days gone by and let the experience of the November 19 evening drown somewhere deep beyond our reach.

We need to clear our thoughts, emotions and come back roaring on June 27 evening to bleed blue and back Rohit & Co, as they prepare to avenge yet another deafening evening that I had personally encountered at Adelaide when the defending champions, England, shocked India with a 10-wicket win.

All we need is another day of Rohit’s selfless, charismatic and aggressive brand of cricket to heal us further, give us another closure and take us one step further to crossing the line of winning an ICC tournament. The 13-year ‘cricketing vanvaas’ has been a long, dark and arduous one and nearly as long as Lord Rama’s original one.

Rohit, the ball is in your slot and this time fans wouldn’t settle for anything less than seeing him lift his maiden World Cup.

Also Read: Kuldeep India’s big X factor in semi-final against England in Guyana