Cricket is a game of inconceivable intrigues and glorious uncertainties. It often flouts the norms, conventional wisdom and unfolds in its own enigmatic, but enchanting, way keeping the spectators guessing. The much-reviled Rohit Sharma, who had scored just 17 runs in six ODIs, was drafted into the team for the crucial fourth game at Mohali against England to utter astonishment and disapproval to a large section of media and cricket experts.
Rohit has been struggling to find his feet in international cricket ever since he made his debut in June 2007. Tagged as the most prodigious talent in India, he has consistently failed to live up to the exalted billing countless people frustrated. A burst of a few sparkling innings is unfailingly followed by a prolonged slump. Despite his largely unremarkable international career, Rohit was repeatedly picked by the selectors despite a string of failures and vociferous calls for his axing.
So when Rohit was picked ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara for the fourth ODI, replacing Ajinkya Rahane, there was a wave of hostility against him on Twitter. England set India a competitive target of 258 to clinch the series and Rohit was sent as opener along with Gautam Gambhir, a decision which surprised many given the 25-year-old's recent bad form. Rohit had opened three times before in ODIs and mustered just 29 runs.
The odds were stacked against him, but what followed in the next two hours might turn out to be a watershed moment in his career. Rohit’ 83 was laced with a slew of sublime shots. He pulled Tim Bresnan for his first boundary and later lofted offspinner James Tredwell for a straight six followed by a gorgeous inside-out stroke over extra cover. He exhibited sturdy temperament which is befitting of an opener.
There have been examples in the past when batsmen who were promoted as make-shift openers changed the course and tenets of the game. Two prime examples are Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya in ODIs and Virender Sehwag in Test matches. Tendulkar started as a middle-order batsman in both ODIs and Tests but was made an opener in 1994 against New Zealand at Auckland because of an injury to Navjot Singh Sidhu. He blitzed 82 off 49 balls and went on to become the most successful ODI batsmen.
It is interesting to note that the statistics of Tendulkar and Rohit are almost identical before they were promoted as openers. Tendulkar had scored 1758 runs in 69 matches at an average 30.84, with 13 scores of 50 or more. Rohit played 86 matches before the Mohali match for 1978 runs at 30.43 with 14 50-plus (including two hundreds). There has never been a shred of a doubt about Rohit's talent and his promotion to the opening slot might turn out to be a masterstroke. The Indian team is going through a transition phase and their experienced openers - Sehwag and Gambhir - are going through a rough period. While Sehwag has lost his place in the ODI side, Gambhir's spot is also under the scanner. Amidst such gloom, Rohit's arrival as an opener augurs well for Indian cricket.
From the look of things, it seemed that Rohit savoured the responsibility of being an opener and is keen to play the same role in the future with distinction. If he remains committed and does justice to his enormous potential, he could measure up to his role-model Tendulkar prophecy who tipped him as the one to surpass his gigantic records (including 100 hundreds) in international cricket.