“He’ll be given space to find his own game and come into his own.”
They were presumably intended as a show of support for his team-mate, but a cynic might sense a patronising undertone. Given the two scintillating innings that followed, it’s almost as if Rohit took offence to it.
Opening the batting for the first time in the longest format, the 32-year-old answered his critics emphatically, scoring back-to-back tons and giving India a shot at victory in Visakhapatnam.
A first innings century complemented Mayank Agarwal’s double ton and allowed the hosts to declare at 502/7. A repeat performance in the second innings saw another declaration at 323/4 as South Africa were set a target of 395 towards the end of Day four.
With 303 runs scored over both innings, Rohit made a mockery of any concerns over his temperament. He seemed to treat suggestions that his Test career might be with as much disdain as he did those final three deliveries of the 56th over, launching Dane Piedt for a hat-trick of sixes.
In doing so, he now holds the record for the most sixes in a single Test match with 13 – just one of the many incredible stats that emerged from this performance.
😱 Most sixes by an Indian in a single:— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) October 5, 2019
ODI - Rohit Sharma (16 vs 🇦🇺)
T20I - Rohit Sharma (10 vs 🇱🇰)
Test - Rohit Sharma (13 vs 🇿🇦)#OneFamily #CricketMeriJaan #INDvSA @ImRo45 @BCCI pic.twitter.com/SDi70zraUB
And that was but a snapshot of his approach over his knocks of 176 (244) and 127 (149) which boasted a combined strike rate of 77. When it was established that he would open the innings, comparisons were quickly drawn with Virender Sehwag.
The former Indian batsman is recognised as one of the most destructive of all time and reinterpreted the way Test cricket could be played. His aggressive style seemed to transcend formats, going on to score two triple tons in red ball cricket.
Rohit is a similarly attacking player but the resemblance ends there. The Mumbai Indians skipper is the technically superior batsmen and should really be better equipped to thrive in Tests.
Those tools came into play on Day one when there was a little help for the pacers with the new ball. It was a small window of opportunity for the Proteas and Rohit was under pressure. He fished outside off stump for two Vernon Philander deliveries early on.
The first half hour exhibited more moments of uncertainty from him but he weathered the storm and it was smooth sailing thereafter. Once the spinners were introduced, he went on the offensive and feasted. The second innings was played at a greater pace with the pitch offering even less. Brimming with confidence, his second knock was a spectacle that involved some masterful stroke play.
There will be greater tests to come though. For the most part, this was a flat track. Rohit may boast an average upwards of 100 in India, but to prove his pedigree in totality, performances abroad remain key.
Take nothing away from the authority he exercised with these two knocks though.
On the back of this ludicrously good first attempt as an opener in Tests, questions over his credentials or ability seem rather silly.
Yes, his recent struggles in Test cricket warranted some trepidation but this is one of the most talented batsmen a cricketing behemoth in India has ever produced, not some wide-eyed youngster on debut.
This was one of the most exquisite stroke players in the game who now stands among just eight others to notch up centuries across all formats.
This was an experienced pro who’s been written off on numerous occasions only to come back with a bang and be written of in the highest regard.
This was Rohit Sharma.
Virat Kohli became the most successful India Test captain of all-time on Monday, but he deflected much of the praise Hanuma Vihari’s way.
Kohli won a record 28th Test as skipper, surpassing the mark set by MS Dhoni (27), when India completed a mammoth victory over the West Indies at Sabina Park to wrap up a 2-0 series win.
While Kohli’s exploits are par for the course, India’s middle-order has been less exemplary of late – yet they may well have found a consistent winner in Vihari.
The batting all-rounder followed up his 93 in the first Test in Antigua with a century and unbeaten 50 in Jamaica, which led to Kohli declaring him ‘the find of the series’.
“The way he’s batted under pressure especially, and on a much more challenging wicket here in Jamaica than in Antigua,” explained Kohli when asked about the 25-year-old’s performance.
“I think his skill sets were outstanding. His temperament and technique were top-notch and he countered everything the opposition threw at him. Very, very pleased with the way he has come about.
“According to the surface, I think it was a top-class innings. He’s a guy who’s very sure of his game and it shows when he plays. He looks confident and the dressing room feels really calm watching him bat. I think that’s a quality he possesses naturally because his game is so correct.”
I relish playing in pressure situations - @Hanumavihari tells @coach_rsridhar— BCCI (@BCCI) September 3, 2019
India’s fielding coach has known Vihari for a decade and a half. A heartfelt conversation between the two post India’s 2-0 series win - by @28anand
Full interview 📹📹https://t.co/Wau7sV2GXk #WIvIND pic.twitter.com/ejFx6rBBSz
If Kohli was impressed by Vihari he was blown away by star seamer Jasprit Bumrah, who made it an incredible 13 wickets across the two Tests including 6-27 in the first innings at Sabina Park.
“I think he’s the most complete bowler in world cricket now,” Kohli added. “I haven’t seen many more lethal spells than those two spells in the last couple of Tests.
Jasprit Bumrah is all over West Indies batsmen like a rash and will be hunting for more wickets on Day Three of the second Test in Jamaica.
Bumrah picked up six of the seven wickets to fall late on Day Two, with the hosts reeling at 87-7 chasing India’s total of 416. He also became just the third Indian bowler to pick up a Test hat-trick.
Will the Windies batsmen survive against Bumrah? Catch the live updates below.