It feels like Déjà vu. On Saturday, Rohit Sharma became the first batsman ever to score centuries in both the innings of his debut Test as an opener. When Rohit made his Test debut in 2013, he scored hundreds in both the innings he batted in that series as well.
As the second innings started in Vishakapatnam yesterday, the match was still in the balance between India & South Africa. Like they often say, Rohit changed the course in a matter of a few hours. While everything else was happening in slow motion, Rohit was cruising along on a slow, up-and-down pitch. He broke a few records along the way.
Rohit scored 127 runs in 149 balls with 10 fours and seven sixes. However, there was one thing that we need to notice about this innings. Off the 149 balls he faced, only 38 were from fast bowlers. It meant that 67% of the balls he faced were from the South African spinners.
Now, that numbers alone might not make sense. To give some context, let us look at more details. Until the 57th over, in which Rohit got out, 22 overs were bowled by KG Rabada and Vernon Philander. Rohit faced only 28 % (38 balls) out of those 132 deliveries. Mayank Agarwal faced 24 balls of it and Cheteshwar Pujara countered the remaining 60.
Rohit managed to score 16 runs in the 38 balls he faced against the pacers with a lone boundary off Philander through covers. More often than not, he was happy to take a single and get to the non-strikers’ end. Whenever Philander attacked with his subtle seamers, Rohit had enough time to adjust and rotate the strike. On those few occasions when Rabada was bowling in the corridor of uncertainty, Rohit either defended with hard hands and no feet movement or let it go with ease.
On a slow pitch like Vizag, it didn’t matter much. All Rohit had to do was to bring out brilliant shot-making ability against spin to display. Every time Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt or Senuran Muthusamy was getting into a rhythm, Rohit disturbed it with a six or four out of nowhere. He pulled, swept, came down the track and lofted. He slogged, cut and drove them all over the place.
Pujara has 13 sixes in his entire Test career, including the two he scored yesterday. Rohit has 13 in this match alone, which is the most for any batsman in the world. He smashed a Hat-trick six off Piedt before getting out. Pujara was all praise for Rohit in the press conference. He acknowledged that the wicket wasn’t as easy to bat as Rohit made it look.
Rohit has to be credited for what he has done as an opener. All looks good for now, at least until the end of the home season. It will be interesting to see how he adapts against the likes of Lungi Ingidi (who should have played in this match) and Rabada on a wicket with bounce and pace(if any) in the next two matches.
One good thing for me as a fan is that the Déjà vu of 2013 is not happening anytime soon. A series of away tours to the SENA countries followed his debut. Now, that is not happening. India has to play four more Test matches at home before going to New Zealand in February 2020. Rohit has made a blockbuster entry back into Test cricket as an opener. But the real test still awaits.
With the likes of KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill waiting in the ranks, the pressure will be on Rohit to keep performing every time he walks out to bat. Maybe he might turn it around in the SENA countries this time. Even if he doesn’t, I will have the memory of this home season to remember.