[Throwback] The innings which changed the course of Rohit Sharma's career; you probably don't even remember it
Rohit Sharma is currently among the top-10 batsmen in the world in all three formats, according to ICC rankings. Apart from Virat Kohli, he has emerged as the modern great of Indian batting. He has also led his Mumbai Indians team to four Indian Premier League (IPL) titles and is now established in the Test team as an opener too.
But things were not always so rosy for the 'Hitman.' His arrival on the international stage happened as early as 2007. In the next three years, he impressed everyone with his immense talent which became amply visible whenever he played a substantial inning in T20Is or Tests. However, he wasn't able to maintain consistency and wasn't a part of the team that went into the 2011 World Cup.
After that event, he played in India's two series against West Indies in 2011, one at home and one away – winning the man-of-the-series award in both. However, things began to go downhill from the 2012 tri-series in Australia which featured the hosts and Sri Lanka as well.
Later in that year, Sharma found himself in an unimaginably bad rut as even getting a single run became difficult against Sri Lanka in a 5-match ODI series in the latter country. Since experts were constantly harping upon his talent, the word talented came to be reviled when used for him. Everyone was getting frustrated with the poor results the Mumbai batsman was producing.
By the end of 2012, it seemed that Rohit was getting to the end of the long rope given to him by the team and selectors. In January 2013, England was playing a 5-match ODI series in India. For the fourth match of the series, played in Mohali on January 23, Sharma was brought back into the Indian team. What's more, in a momentous decision, he was made to open the innings.
People harked back to the example of Sachin Tendulkar's ODI career getting transformed due to him becoming an opener. Whether Rohit could achieve something similar seemed doubtful. India had to chase a target of 258 in that match. Rohit opened the innings with Gautam Gambhir under lights.
What followed was a brilliant, classy inning of 83 off 93 balls from Rohit. It wasn't the sort of destructive innings that we have become accustomed to seeing from him. It was a steady knock with the sort of exquisite stroke-play that the right-hander can produce.
The comparisons with Sachin's career proved to be truer than expected. This knock convinced everyone that Rohit as an opener is an experiment worth persisting with. He failed in the next match but in the game following it, the first match of 2013 Champions Trophy, he again came good and formed a partnership with Shikhar Dhawan which has become legendary.
By the end of the year, Rohit had smashed the Australian bowlers brutally in the 7-match home series, the final match witnessing him scoring the first of his three ODI double hundreds.
If Rohit hadn't scored that 83 at Mohali on January 23, 2013, who knows, he may have been dropped from the side. It was that innings which put his career on a steep upward curve that has taken him to legendary heights.