By all accounts, Rohit has been a trailblazer in ODIs, conjuring up double hundreds with the ease of swatting a fly, in addition to racking up five centuries, a record for the most scored in a single edition, in the 2019 World Cup.
Back in 2013, prior to the Champions Trophy, the team management’s decision to promote him as an opener was viewed with trepidation with experts questioning his technique, or the lack of it, in the seaming conditions of England. At the conclusion of a successful tournament, both on an individual and collective front, that very decision was hailed as a masterstroke by the same doubting Thomases who were made to eat large chunks of humble pie.
To borrow a hackneyed cliche, Rohit hasn’t looked back since, morphing into a hefty pillar of strength, carving a reputation as a ODI behemoth.
If 2013 was a year of annual appraisal in Indian cricket, it wouldn’t be far off the mark to suggest that Rohit aced every test with aplomb earning glowing reviews for his work ethic in multiple formats. Indeed, he is sure to look back fondly at 2013 for reasons aplenty.
For starters, being entrusted with the job of opening in ODIs provided a fillip to his career at a critical juncture having missed out on a middle-order berth in the 2011 World Cup-winning squad. At the time, Rohit didn’t take kindly to his omission from the WC squad and that disappointment lingered for quite a while.
The two other instances in 2013 that he would cherish for a lifetime arrived when he led Mumbai Indians to its maiden IPL crown at his first attempt as captain having been handed the baton from Ricky Ponting midway through the tournament.
And finally, in November of what turned out to be an annus mirabilis of a year, he made his Test debut rather belatedly, after several false dawns and near-misses, at the hallowed Eden Gardens against West Indies. And what a debut it ended up being with Rohit slamming a ton following it up with another in Sachin Tendulkar’s swansong appearance, to take to Test cricket like a dolphin, hasn’t duck been done to death, to water.
Surprisingly, for a player as immensely talented as Rohit, the next few years in white flannels went on a downward spiral even as his blue-chip ODI stock was trading at an all-time high.
Just when it was thought that he had to settle for a middling career in Tests, another lifeline was handed to him which was similar to the one in 2013.
Tasked with the role of opening against a formidable South African pace attack at home in October 2019, Rohit grabbed it with both ‘gloves’ amassing a whopping 529 runs with 3 centuries, including a double, to make that spot his own.
In what would have been his first major overseas test of skills as an opener, Rohit missed the Test-leg assignment of New Zealand tour around this time last year with an injury and it wasn’t until the Sydney Test early last month that he was reinstated back into the Test team.
Though he made promising starts in each of the four innings in Sydney and Brisbane, he failed to convert them into substantial scores once again having to contend with questions over his suitability for Tests.
After twin failures in the first Test of the ongoing four-match series against England in Chennai, he was back on familiar terrain with shrill voices clamouring for his ouster from the second match. On Saturday, having lost his opening partner, Shubman Gill, for zero, Rohit had to navigate a probing spell from the seasoned Stuart Broad and the express-quick Olly Stone to minimise the risk of further damage. He did that expertly without curbing his attacking instincts unfurling his wide repertoire of expansive strokes while notching up an exhilarating hundred, unmindful of the tart remarks that preceded the start of the match.
Having made serene progress to 161, it looked like Rohit was firmly on course to another Daddy hundred, but he holed out to deep square leg off Jack Leach after bailing his team out of a morass.
One isn’t sure whether Rohit is superstitious, but how he would fervently hope that he could emulate, or even surpass, the highs of 2013 in 2021 again.