‘Hitman’ Rohit raises India’s World Cup hopes
NEW DELHI, India (AFP)— Rohit Sharma has led India from the front in their three unbeaten matches of the World Cup to boost his cricket-mad nation’s hopes of winning the title at home.
The Indian captain has already amassed 217 runs including a record century against Afghanistan, showing no signs of the pressure on his shoulders.
Rohit succeeded superstar Virat Kohli as white-ball captain in 2021 with the aim of securing the national team a third World Cup and first international title since the 2013 Champions Trophy.
Australia great Ricky Ponting lavished praise on Rohit for handling the pressure of the job with ease.
“Someone like Virat, who is a bit more heart-on-the-sleeve, and probably listens to the fans and plays up with the fans a little bit more, someone with his personality would probably find it a bit harder,” Ponting wrote in an International Cricket Council column on Tuesday.
“But I think Rohit will be fine with it. He’s a terrific bloke and has been a great player for a long time, and he’s done a great job as leader of India.”
Rohit, 36, has enjoyed franchise success as a skipper with five IPL titles with the Mumbai Indians and then led India to the Asia Cup title last month in a key test of form ahead of the World Cup.
That success would have helped ease a little of the pain suffered when, under his captaincy, India were defeated in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup in Australia last year.
Rohit has never let expectations get to him and Ponting, once his captain at Mumbai and then coach, said the veteran batsman takes pressure in his stride.
“He’s very laid back,” said Ponting. “You can even see that by the way that he plays. He’s a pretty laconic sort of batsman as well, and that’s the way he is both on and off the field.”
Rohit, an opening batsman nicknamed “Hitman” for his ability to get big scores quickly, was out for a duck in the team’s opening win against Australia, but was lauded for his captaincy moves.
He soon regained form with 131 against Afghanistan as he surpassed compatriot Sachin Tendulkar with a record seventh World Cup century.
His ton in 63 balls was the fastest by an Indian in a World Cup to better Kapil Dev’s hundred in 72 balls against Zimbabwe in 1983.
Rohit took his form to the hotly-anticipated clash with arch-rivals Pakistan and smashed a match-winning 86 to thrash the opposition as India climbed to the top of the 10-team World Cup table.
In his career, he has accumulated 10,329 ODI runs including 31 centuries in 254 matches since his debut in 2007.
Rohit, who was not selected for India’s last World Cup triumph at home in 2011, said he relishes the role of being leader.
“Nothing in life is impossible, you can make it possible if you have the belief,” Rohit said.
“If you trust in it, if you have the will to go forward, it’s everyone’s dream firstly to be part of the team and then to captain the team is definitely the icing on the cake. I never thought I would be captain one day.”
“I also believe that good things happen to good people. I kept my head straight, kept working hard on my game. I am sitting here today with a wonderful opportunity to bring glory to this beautiful country.”
Rohit’s deputy in the World Cup, Hardik Pandya praised the leader for his ability to bring the best out of players through his faith in them.
“Since he has come, he has backed a lot of boys and we see the result now as well with how the boys are going and expressing themselves,” all-rounder Pandya said.
“So that’s why Rohit has been special in giving them enough opportunity and at the same time telling them that ‘you know what, I got your back’.”