Rohit Sharma stepped into a realm few can attempt. His third double century in One Day Internationals was a clinical exhibition of punishing batsmanship by a man under pressure to perform.
He had lost his first match as captain, failed as a batsman, had critics breathing down his neck, but in one magical knock he seemed to have taken a definite step forward; a huge step forward as a stroke-maker of rare brilliance.
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India romps home
It was cold and gloomy at the PCA Stadium when the toss happened on Wednesday. Sri Lanka rightly opted to field. It was, though, the only aspect of the game that went in Sri Lanka’s favour.
Once Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan put the attack to the sword, runs came in a cascade as the host racked up a mammoth total of 392.
And despite an unbeaten 111 by Angelo Mathews , it was beyond Sri Lanka’s reach and India was home by 141 runs.
For Shreyas Iyer too there was much to take home from this contest even though he fell 12 runs short of a century in only his second ODI match. His 213-run second wicket stand with Rohit after Dhawan had put on 115 for the opening partnership wounded Sri Lankans gravely.
Rohit blows Sri Lanka away
The match, as a whole, was nothing but Rohit’s majestic demonstration of innovation at the crease. He was robust in belting the ball and sublime too with some silken drives.
The Mumbaikar was a delightful package of a batsman who planned his innings professionally - picking pace with the ease of a master, and feasting on the ball; short-pitched or over-pitched, the length made no difference.
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The visitor's bowling, on the other hand, was an apology for an international attack. Not because it was mauled by Rohit but the shocking lack of discipline and commitment that a bowler brings to his work when confronted with a batsman on the rampage.
Rohit was unstoppable but then Sri Lanka played into his hands by feeding him scoring opportunities. The Indian captain was not the one to waste such generous offerings and made the best use of his form.
That he has ample time to play his strokes is Rohit’s forte. He also can’t be restricted because of his range of shots. The 30-year-old was able to read the mind of the bowler and be in a position to decimate the ball because there was no attempt by Sri Lanka to probe stifling angles and length.
It was as if it had given up the contest once it saw Rohit produce excellent footwork to cart the ball all around the ground.
Rohit puts price on wicket
Long chastised as a batsman who does not put a value to his wicket, Rohit has struggled to come out of his own shadow - the image of a batsman who takes things and his place in the side as granted.
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His spellbinding potential, unexplored in Tests but so attractive in the shorter versions of the game, appeals to the purist and the layman alike, for he can paint the canvas with colours so vibrant that you can see not a hint of an erroneous flick of the brush.
Sri Lanka left high and dry
The Sri Lankans were hit by an avalanche and lost their way to an extent that it was hard to imagine this bunch, looking so ragged, had humiliated India a few days ago at Dharamsala.
The ghosts of the hills were exorcised in the plains as Rohit, Dhawan and Iyer took the attack by the scruff and left the audience satiated in its demands of pyrotechnics. There were plenty of cricketing shots and a flurry of cross-batted heaves that showed Rohit in complete control.
Sri Lanka erred by adopting desperate measures. The yorkers ended up in full tosses and the slower ones were smilingly put away by the batsmen. Nothing worked for Sri Lanka against a determined India, rather Rohit Sharma, who played one of the most destructive innings in contemporary cricket.