April 2007. Supporters were still trying to get over the cricket team’s early elimination from the one-day tournament in the West Indies.
Only a year earlier, the BCCI reluctantly agreed to send a team to the T20 World Cup, to be held in South Africa in 2007, in exchange for joint hosting rights for the 2011 ODI World Cup with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to get. .
For that they had to assemble a team and name 30 probabilities by June. They hosted an event called Interstate T20 tournament to create a player pool. There was no TV coverage and entry to stadiums was free.
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In the West Zone leg, Mumbai played Gujarat at the Brabourne Stadium and they chased down 142 losing Ajinkya Rahane first ball. Walked in Rohit Sharma, still just 19, smashed an unbeaten 101 off 45 balls with 13 fours and five sixes to become the first Indian to score a T20 century.
Next month he was in the 30-man probables for South Africa and was selected for the white-ball tours of England and Ireland. Despite irregular chances early on, the man became a white-ball colossus.
Dinesh LadRohit’s childhood coach, says, “He called me in 2007 and said he is not getting chances. I told him, this is an Indian team, not a gully-mohalle ka team. The chances will be few . Grab them when they He scored a crucial 50 in a knockout match against South Africa in Durban as Yuvraj Singh’s replacement and hasn’t looked back since.”
T20 came easily to Rohit, like the game itself, which was a problem as people mistook his languid grace for laziness.
Jong explains why Rohit embraced T20 when others struggled. “When you see Rohit, he mostly plays with a straight bat. He keeps things simple. Rarely do you see him getting out to fancy shots.”
It is a quality, his former Mumbai coach and Indian batsman Pravin Amrewho got Rohit a contract to play for Air India and coached him in his debut season at Mumbai, and who was coach in that match against Gujarat, also highlights.
“Rohit has a fantastic base. A good foundation. He also has great clarity and doesn’t overcomplicate things. When he bats, he doesn’t think about captaincy. When he is captain, he doesn’t think about batting .” explained Amre.
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These qualities and a gift for choosing length early and getting more time than others armed him with another quality. Confidence. “He never doubts himself,” asserts Lad.
“In just his second game in the Giles Shield, I asked him if he could open for the school (Swami Vivekanand). He jumped at the chance, even though he had never opened before. Tyaala kolf karaychi khujli ahe,” (He have an itch to just bat) he adds.
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Perhaps that explains why he said yes when captain MS Dhoni asked him to move to the top of the order in ODIs in 2013 against England in Mohali. It turned out to be a career-defining move. The same goes for his Test renaissance in 2019 when he agreed to open.
Rohit will lead India in an ICC event for the first time and at the age of 35, this could possibly be his last World Cup in the T20 format.
After the last T20 WC in the UAE, Rohit advocated a high-risk, high-reward approach. This helped him score handsome 20s and 30s. But many feel he is selling himself short with this tactic.
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“I want him to play properly and give himself time. If he bats for 20 overs, he will get an 80 or 100 every time,” says Lad.
Amre agrees. “Look at the stats of his four T20I hundreds and three double hundreds in ODIs. The acceleration came in the second half. From 150 to 200 he took about 20 balls. I hope he gives himself more time in Australia. He can dominate on those pitches while playing the short ball well.”