India deservedly clinched the five-match ODI series against England, following another competent performance in the fourth game at Mohali. Indians were better than the visitors in both the bowling and the batting department overall, as a result of which they could overcome some hiccups during the course of the match. As mentioned in the preview to this game, it was a much-needed victory for India considering the drought that has preceded this series. India can now heave a sigh of relief going into the final ODI, knowing well that whatever happens wouldn’t matter as much as it would have had India lost at Mohali.
Apart from the win which was big in itself, the even more pleasing aspect was the men who scripted the triumph for their side. Rohit Sharma was the biggest surprise of all. His selection in the first place defied logic, since he had hardly scored any runs in the last 10 matches he featured in. However, the Mumbai batsmen did well not to waste the opportunity he got at the expense of Ajinkya Rahane. The latter might consider himself slightly unlucky to have been dropped after three failures, but the fact is that he has looked out of sorts in the series.
Returning to Sharma, his case is quite the contrary to Rahane. He must thank the gods for he did not deserve to be retained in the squad on the basis of his past performances. The selectors however retained their faith in him, and to Sharma’s credit, he delivered at that too at a crucial juncture of the series. The kind of knock Sharma played at Mohali, getting his eye in before blazing away following his half-century, was stuff everyone in Indian cricket knows the batsman is capable of. The problem has been that such performances have been rather sporadic.
Opening with Sharma at Mohali was a big risk, which paid off handsomely. Had the talented youngster failed, there would have been obvious backlash over thedaring move. Kudos thus must be reserved for the Indian management for sticking their neck out. Sharma proved on Wednesday that he has the capability to do well opening the innings. If India are looking at getting him to open the innings in the future, they must try him at the same number for a few more games. Who knows, he might just be one of the two run-scoring openers India have been searching for.
While it was great to see Sharma get among the runs, it will be too early to start lauding him as a batsman all over again. Too often in the past, Sharma has played such wonderful knocks, and raised the hopes of a nation, only to follow it with utterly shambolic efforts. Even in his dismissal at Mohali, there was a lesson for Sharma. Although he was unlucky to have been adjudged lbw, the fact was that he played a cross batted shot to an incoming delivery when he should have hit the ball straighter. Few players get as many chances at the international level as Sharma has to prove their credentials. It thus becomes mandatory for him to make the most of his gifts.
--By A Cricket Analyst