Australia’s 359 in second ODI against India at Jaipur on October 16, 2013 looked a match-winning score from every angle. But in a 3-hour display of amazing batting, the trio of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli overhauled the mammoth target with 39 balls remaining. While Dhawan missed his century by 5 runs and Kohli posted a record 52-ball 100, the man who broke many Australian hearts was Rohit Sharma. His masterful 141 not out, was to make mincemeat of every Australian bowler that day. This was not only India’s highest ODI run-chase but a mind-blowing show from openers and the one-drop batsman.
Rohit Sharma scored his first ODI hundred against Zimbabwe in May 2010 and followed it up with another in the next tri-series match against Sri Lanka. Sharma missed the 2011 world cup but found himself in the team that toured West Indies in 2011, under Suresh Raina. Sharma made 26 off 23 balls in the only T20 match, which India won. In the first ODI soon after, which India won, Sharma was the man-of-the-match by scoring 68 not out in 75 balls. In the 3rd ODI, Sharma walked in with India struggling at 92 for 6 and came up with a match-winning 86 of 91 balls. The Caribbean press heaped choicest phrases in describing the calm and matured performance from Sharma, who was named the Man-of-the-Series.
Lately, Sharma has been in the thick of things and more so, since he became Mumbai Indians Captain in IPL. For records’ sake, Sharma was first noticed, after he scored a blazing 45-ball hundred against Gujarat in Syed Mushtaq Ali T-20 tournament in 2007. That performance brought him in the Indian side, which won the inaugural T-20 world cup. Then Deccan Chargers signed him and Sharma played a key role in their lifting the IPL 2009 title in Johannesburg. In a match against Kolkata Knight Riders, Deccan needed 21 to win in six balls, when Mortaza began with a no-ball. Sharma hammered it for 4 and reduced the target to 16 from 6. Mortaza made some amends by conceding just 2 off the next 2 balls but Sharma hit the next one over midwicket for a huge six. When Mortaza bowled a wide and Deccan still needed 7 from 3, Sharma punched the next ball for 2. With just 5 needed off the last 2 balls, Sharma first produced a boundary and then hit a big 6.
In 2011, Sharma joined Mumbai Indians and scored 372 runs in 14 innings with the highest score of 87, hitting 32 fours and 13 sixes. In 2012, he scored 109 not out against KKR, which had class bowlers like, Sunil Narine, Brett Lee and Shakib Al Hasan. In 16 innings played in 2012, Sharma aggregated 433 runs with 39 fours and 18 sixes. As Mumbai Indians captain in 2013, Sharma led the side to their first-ever IPL triumph, playing 19 innings for 538 runs, studded with 35 fours and 28 sixes.
Many people credit MS Dhoni as a great finisher but Sharma has a matching record of remarkable last over finishes for his teams on several occasions. One such feat was described above. Against Pune Warriors in IPL 2011, Mumbai Indians needed 5 off the last over from Murali Kartik, who gave away just 4 in first 5 balls. With Mumbai Indians still needing 1 from 1 ball, Sharma hit a 6 and fashioned out an emphatic win.
In Mumbai Indians match against Chargers in IPL 2012, 18 runs were required off the final over. For company, Sharma had James Franklin, who steered the first ball from Damien Christian for 4 and scored 2 off the next. The batsmen ran for a bye off the third ball. This brought Sharma on strike. Sharma promptly dispatched the fourth ball for a 6. When 5 runs were needed off the last 2 balls, Sharma survived a strong run-out appeal but ran for 2 leg byes. With 3 runs required off the last ball, Sharma heaved a big pull into the stands for a towering 6.
For ICC Champions Trophy 2013 and tri-series in the Caribbean, Sharma teamed up as the opener with Shikhar Dhawan. The partnership proved effective as India won both tournaments. In Champions Trophy, Sharma had scores of 65, 52, 18 and 33. In the following tri-series, Sharma made 60, 5, 46, 48 and 58.
In the recently concluded Champions League T-20, Sharma led Mumbai Indians to an impressive win. In a match against Perth Scorchers, Mumbai Indians could only have qualified, if they scored 150 runs in 14.2 overs. With Dwayne Smith keeping him company, Sharma devastated the Scorchers’ attack to make the win look ridiculously easy. He scored a 24-ball 51 not out. In the final with Rajasthan Royals, Sharma scored a quick-fire 33 in 14 balls to help Mumbai Indians pile up a match-winning 202.
In the first ODI against the touring Aussies, Sharma scored 41off 42 balls, though India lost that match. With his superlative performance at Jaipur, Sharma has proved his worth as a great match winner under the most trying circumstances.