Rohit Sharma: It was pleasing to watch quick bowling from the slip
In Rohit’s opinion, the nature of pitches in the Asia Cup provided a good warm-up for the World Cup while at the toss, he declared that if given the chance, he would have also chosen to bat, but Dasun Shanaka’s right call prevented him from making that choice.
Fireworks exploded through the walls as Rohit Sharma waited anxiously for his post-match press conference. Rohit Sharma had been grinning for the majority of Sunday’s short Asia Cup final that culminated in India winning their first multi-nation tournament since September 2018.
That tournament happened to be the Asia Cup, too, in Dubai, where Rohit had been standing in for a rested Virat Kohli. But this one was different, not the least because Rohit’s captaincy legacy may be decided in the coming months.
India had a few niggling questions going into the mega event. Unlike in 2018, when MS Dhoni was the whole and soul behind the stumps, India didn’t fully know who their first-choice wicketkeeper was until a week before the tournament with questions about KL Rahul’s fitness. Then, he picked up a “different niggle” to the one he was in rehab for, and Ishan Kishan had to play the first two games for India. When Shreyas Iyer, who was also returning from a long injury break after back surgery, pulled up with back spasms, they had still another problem to deal with.
Who knows how the situation would have developed if Iyer, India’s chosen No. 4, had not picked up that niggle. But now, with only five minutes remaining until toss, Rahul entered his position, and he quickly left his mark with a masterfully crafted 111 off 106.
His unbroken 233-run stand with Virat Kohli sent Pakistan tumbling to one of their heaviest defeats. Rohit was thinking back on India’s Asia Cup campaign when he was most pleased by storylines like this.
“It’s so tough when you have to come back like that,”Rohit said.
“Five minutes before the toss, we told him he’s playing. An unfortunate incident happened [Iyer’s back spasm] and KL had to come in and play. To get a hundred like that shows the quality of the player, and how mentally he’s ready for the challenge. We want players to stand up in big moments and big pressure situations and a lot of the guys stood up.”
Rohit reserved most praise for his bowling group, saying watching his fast bowlers’ fire away like they did all tournament was “comforting.” Sri Lanka was stunned by Mohammed Siraj’s brilliance on Sunday. His figures read 7-1-21-6, with Hardik Pandya cleaning up the last three batters.
Rohit was so taken by Siraj’s work that he was inclined to keep bowling him until he was sent a message by the trainer.
“I was surprised with the pitch,”Rohit said.
“It was pleasing to watch from the slips. The guys were bowling quickly; all three pacers [Jasprit Bumrah being the third] bent their backs well. Siraj got it to bend more than the other two guys. Every day everyone can’t be a hero, you’ll find new heroes every day and today was Siraj’s day.
“We all complimented him and were behind him when he was bowling that spell. He bowled seven overs which is a lot. I wanted to keep bowling him, but I got a message from our trainer that we needed to stop him now. He was also quite desperate to bowl. That’s the nature of any bowler or any batter when they see the opportunity; they want to pounce on it.
“But that’s where my job comes in and I want to make sure everything stays a little calm and you don’t over exaggerate a little too much. That’s the call. I remember against Sri Lanka in Trivandrum he was in a similar situation, he bowled eight overs on a trot, and he was on four wickets. But seven overs are good enough.”
In Rohit’s opinion, the nature of pitches in the Asia Cup provided a good warm-up for the World Cup. At the toss, he declared that if given the chance, he would have also chosen to bat, but Dasun Shanaka’s right call prevented him from making that choice.
“Honestly I was a little surprised at how much the wicket did,”Rohit said.
“Because we didn’t expect the wicket to do that much. That’s been the nature of this ground [R Premadasa Stadium], you have to be prepared for unexpected things. Those are the challenges you come across as a sportsman. In conditions like this, you don’t know exactly what the right score is, or what the winning score is.
“We defended 213 against Sri Lanka [and it was enough in the Super 4s] but the other day we couldn’t chase 266 [against Bangladesh], and today we bowled them out for 50. So, the nature of the pitches here has been challenging, and unexpected as well. I mean when the pitch had so much to offer, we needed guys who have the skill to exploit that.
“Siraj has to be specially mentioned here, when the pitch is looking that dry, to get the ball to move around like that is a special skill set. I hope he continues that for a little longer, at the same time, we just need to look after all the bowlers, make sure they’re fresh, and keep them ready for the games in front of us now.”