Holding sway in powerplay

A mature, responsible, hungry batsman…Rohit Sharma on way to his seventh ODI century in the World Cup quarterfinal match against Bangladesh in Melbourne. Five of those three-figure knocks have come in the last 18 months.A gem of an innings…Suresh Raina’s 57-ball-65 deflated Bangladesh.-AP

As India slowed down after a steady opening stand, Bangladesh throbbed with the hope of restricting its opponent to a moderate total. But that was only for a brief while, as Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina joined forces to knock the stuffing out of Bangladesh. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

India eased past Bangladesh by 109 runs to progress to the semifinals of the World Cup. The match was eventually won in some comfort, but things had not been straightforward all along. That India posted 302 batting first was largely due to a magnificent 137 from Rohit Sharma. After a steady opening stand of 75, India had been stuck in a mire created by Bangladesh’s bowlers. From 51 for no loss in 10 overs, India had crawled to 99 for two in 25. Rubel Hossain and Shakib Al Hasan bowled eight overs in tandem, when India lost two for 25.

Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli fell in quick succession, the latter out for three. Ajinkya Rahane too struggled before being dismissed for 19. Bangladesh had a spring in its step and as India slowed down there was genuine hope of restricting the opponent to a moderate total.

Suresh Raina and Rohit, however, combined to add 122 runs (96 balls) for the fourth wicket. That stand knocked the wind out of Bangladesh’s sails. Rohit began patiently, taking 70 balls for his fifty, before exploding in majestic fashion. There were delightful straight drives, cover drives, and pull shots, all played with seemingly minimal effort. He raised his seventh one-day hundred off 108 balls. Five of those hundreds have now come in the last 18 months; on each of those five occasions that he has entered three figures, he has crossed 130. It is the sign of a mature, responsible, hungry batsman.

The move to the opener’s slot in 2013, shortly ahead of the Champions Trophy, has worked wonders for Rohit. “If I have to go back four years, it won’t be a realistic comparison because he was not really opening for us at that point of time,” Dhoni said, when asked of the Rohit of 2011, who was dropped from the World Cup side. “We felt it was a waste of talent if he was batting at six because more often than not he was not getting enough chances to bat and our top order was quite fixed. We couldn’t really make him play or give him enough opportunities. That’s one of the reasons why if you see the first 40 games, you may think he has not done enough. But out of those 40 there were quite a few times when he went in to bat in the last four or five overs.”

Getting an opportunity to bat for India then, Dhoni felt, was not easy. “It’s difficult in a five-match series if you’re playing and your top order is batting really well. In India at times, you don’t really get a chance to bat. You may get a chance, maybe, in the last couple of matches with 10 overs to go and they all count as chances. That was the time we decided we’d try to make him an opener, and he accepted that. He did open for us in the T20 World Cup, and from that point, we thought it will be good to have him as an opener because he cuts and pulls well, and he’s a natural stroke-player. It helps if you have somebody in the top order like that.”

A gem of an innings... Suresh Raina's 57-ball-65 defeated Bangladesh.-AP

Rohit and Raina made full use of the powerplay overs, which realised 50 runs. India appears to have settled on a good approach to the batting powerplay — take few risks, play regular shots and ensure no wickets are lost. Raina played a gem of an innings himself, his 57-ball-65 deflating Bangladesh.

The run chase never grew wings at any stage. Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes were dismissed off successive deliveries. Dhoni took an excellent diving catch to get rid of Soumya Sarkar off the bowling of Umesh Yadav, who finished with figures of four for 31. Bangladesh was bowled out for 193 in 45 overs.

There were complaints afterwards about umpiring decisions having gone against the side. Rohit was caught at mid-wicket off a full toss that was rather harshly declared a no-ball. To speak of a conspiracy, though, is foolish. Unsurprisingly, no Bangladeshi voices were heard when Chris Jordan was run-out at a critical juncture in England’s narrow defeat.

“Against India we always know that we have to take wickets, otherwise it is going to be very difficult. At that stage if Rohit had got out, it would have been great. I think I can’t say anything in here but you all have seen what was going on there,” Mashrafe Mortaza said later.

“It was a brilliant tournament for us. Obviously, the way we played today wasn’t great, but most of the players in our side from 2008 hadn’t had any cricket in Australia, so it was a really tough ask for us. I feel very proud as the captain of this team, and hopefully our boys will take it forward in the next series.”

The victory was Dhoni’s 100th as captain in ODIs, putting him only behind Ricky Ponting (165) and Allan Border (107).