While the just concluded two-test series between India and the West Indies will be remembered more for the legendary Sachin Tendulkar making his last appearances, some positive aspects still emerged for Indian cricket during this period. In an earlier article, which this author posted on these pages, mention was made on the heroics of Mohammed Shami and Rohit Sharma in their debut first test at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. People, who had gathered at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium to bid adieu to Sachin Tendulkar, saw some vintage batting by the maestro on his way to scoring 74, his last half century score in test matches. But completely drowned in the chants and adulation for the great Tendulakar, was the under-reported involvement of Shami and Sharma in the afternoon of the second day of the Mumbai test. The performance of the duo appeared overshadowed for another reason. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli played crackers of cricketing knocks to the great entertainment of the capacity crowds, for whom everything extra was a windfall bonus. Pujara and Kohli both played with controlled aggression in scoring century and half-century, respectively.
When Kohli fell with the score reading at 315/4, India already had a sizeable lead over the West Indies. It was at this point that Rohit Sharma walked in to join Pujara. Though Sharma quickly lost Pujara and Dhoni, he found Ravichandran Ashwin on the other end. Just as at Kolkata, the two guys forked out another useful partnership of 44 runs, in which Ashwin contributed 30. Then Rohit Sharma ran out partners once Ashwin fell at 409. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pragyan Ojha could not last long and when the ninth wicket fell at 415, Sharma had scored 46 and the roaring crowd wanted him to at least complete a half century. Sharma watched Shami walking in to join him at the other end. Beginning slowly, the two batsmen began to carry the score forward.
Over the next 90 minutes, Sharma and Shami entranced the spectators with a dream batting performance. It was like a masterly craft of batsmanship from a one-test old Rohit Sharma. Mohammad Shami is no mean batsman at No. 11, but he was just content in lending invaluable support to Rohit Sharma. These two skillfully manipulated the strike to ensure that Shami was not exposed to the West Indian Bowlers. In the first seven overs of their dream partnership for the 10th wicket, Shami faced just seven deliveries. The control exercised by Sharma on the proceeding was evident in the fact that when the partnership was nearing 50, Shami had yet to score his first run. The bowlers were desperate to see Shami on the batting side but Sharma and Shami denied them any such luxury. One example was seen in the 99th over, when Sharma gently caressed the last ball past a pack of crowding fielders for a single. The fielders didn’t chase the ball in the hope that Sharma will come back for two. While fully protecting Shami, Sharma displayed some explosive strokes, typical of ODI and T-20 formats. Sharma also had the lady luck on his side when at 85; one of his lofted shot was held by Shillingford in the deep. But reprieve came quickly, when TV cameras revealed that the fielder had stepped on the rope, while taking the catch. Sharma reached his back-to-back hundred in style by hitting a six over long-on. The strike rotation by the two batsmen was so effective that when Sharma reached his century, Shami’s contribution in the 64-run partnership was just 1 run. In the next few overs, Shami also hit two boundaries before holing out to deep square leg. The efforts of Sharma and Shami ensured that the last-wicket stand was worth 80, as India finished at 495 all out. While Sharma joined a select band of international cricketers, who had scored consecutive centuries at debut, Shami demonstrated the patience required in a crucial batting partnership.