If it was a series India were expected to cruise through, they were in for a bumpy ride. The honours were finally claimed, but not before some fierce contests between the bats, with the ball being reduced to an unwanted flying object. Even on the batting beauties of India, such pounding had rarely been seen.
Virat Kohli took a few bold steps towards establishing himself as one of the most feared batsmen in one-day cricket. Centuries off 52 and 61 balls don’t happen very often and Kohli scored them in two weeks to lead India past 350 and 359.
It’s not easy to overshadow a batsman on fire, but that is what Rohit Sharma did. Not only did he score more runs, he played leading roles in all three Indian wins. The number of runs he scored (491, strike rate 108.62, 45x4, 23x6)), the way he scored them and the impact they had on the opposition made him Man of the Series. Rohit’s willingness to shoulder responsibility instead of throwing it away after a good start was the most important feature of his transformation.
With slots in the Indian Test line-up becoming available, Rohit couldn’t have timed his success better. “He has learnt from the past. He was in the Test squad and got dropped because of inconsistency. But this is the time to include him in the Test side. He is the highest run-getter in a big series, Man of the Series and man in form. He has proved he can perform in big matches and scoring a double century in the decider was a show of calibre,” said former India batsman Pravin Amre, who has seen Rohit from close during his stint as Mumbai coach.
Amre said he was not surprised to see Rohit play with such maturity. “He has done it for Mumbai. In Ranji Trophy he has scored at times when the team needed him. He has responded with some big hundreds. It’s important that he has done this for the national team now, against a big opponent,” said Amre.
The success of Rohit and Kohli and their long stays in the middle made up for the failure of the middle-order where Suresh Raina at No 4 and Yuvraj Singh at 5 contributed 119 runs in eight combined innings. While Rohit, Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni had six centuries and six half-centuries between them, no other batsman crossed 50. Considering the failure of Raina and Yuvraj, the role played by Rohit – part of three 100-plus opening stands, finishing one chase and batting till the last over in the decider – becomes all the more important.
The same can’t be said of the bowling. Not only did they lack penetration, they bowled loose and short either side of the wicket. Australia amassed 1938 runs in 295 overs at 6.56. There was an air of inevitability in the way the bowlers surrendered that was most alarming.
“The pitches, new field restriction rule played their part, but there was a sense of fear in the bowlers that was disturbing. They had no clue and kept losing the plot. The only way to overcome this was to work hard at the nets with the bowling coach. The coach has to work on the mental front as well and should be able to make a difference in the way his bowlers are thinking. Not sure how this worked with the Indians,” said former spinner Maninder Singh.
“It’s all the more shocking to see this happen in Dhoni’s team. He gives the bowlers enough confidence and also a long rope. So to see them so low on confidence was surprising. We tend to forget shortcomings after winning. But if we pay attention to this while we are winning, our chances of staying on top will get better,” said Maninder.
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