Dubai: Rohit Sharma made a mockery of the famed Afghanistan attack to score an eight-wicket win in the World Cup match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Chasing a below par 273 on a perfect batting wicket, the Indian skipper was at his belligerent best, just like in the previous World Cup when he scored four consecutive centuries. The skipper, who was dismissed for zero in the opener against Australia in Chennai on Sunday, has not been in the best of his touches this year. But the 36-year-old once again showed that form is temporary and class is permanent.
Rohit raced to his century in just 63 balls to become the fastest centurion for India, eclipsing the 40-year old record of Kapil Dev who smashed the Zimbabwe attack during his memorable knock of 175 in the 1983 World Cup. He has taken his tally to seven centuries in World Cup, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar's highest ever of six centuries.
This dominating performance from Rohit Sharma will send a lot of positive signals to the Indian team for the next high-profile match against Pakistan. Afghanistan attack is no comparison to that of Pakistan, who have one of the best bowling line-ups in World Cup. It will once again be an interesting tussle between the Pakistan bowling and Indian batting.
“It’s a good win for us as it is important to get the momentum at the start. You will be put under pressure and we’ll have to absorb the pressure. We absorbed it well for now. You’ve got players with different skillsets bringing different attributes, which is good for the team. We got batters who play freely and fearlessly. When you have all-round players, things take care of themselves. In World Cups, you need to respond with different styles of play. Don’t want to worry about the external favours and we’ll treat every game like that. How the pitch plays, conditions and combinations, etc,” the Indian skipper told the official broadcasters during the prize presentation ceremony.
Virat Kohli getting his 67th half-century and Shreyas Iyer spending valuable time on the field will come in handy for the middle order batter, who is returning from an injury. Iyer was dismissed off the second ball against Australia and hence this knock will give him the confidence.
Afghanistan made a slow start to the proceedings, but Jasprit Bumrah broke the threatening partnership between openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran. The wicket of Zadran once again exposed the frailty of Afghanistan batting, losing two more in quick succession. Bumrah, even on a wicket that has no assistance to the bowlers, proved his capabilities to claim three Afghanistan wickets to jump to the second spot in the list for top-wicket takers in this World Cup. The pacer has so far six wickets to his tally.
Pandya comes to the party
All-rounder Hardik Pandya also came to the party by bowling a beauty to dismiss Gurbaz and showed his intentions that he is not going to be a mere spectator in this World Cup.
A lot was expected of the Afghanistan bowlers, but Rohit Sharma didn’t allow anyone to settle down and went on the offensive right from the start until he was dismissed for 131 that included 16 fours and five sixes off 84 balls. Rashid Khan showed his mastery in the shorter formats by getting both the wickets that feel.
Five take aways from the match between India and Afghanistan
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli key
The two stalwarts of Indian cricket are coming good at the right time. Rohit Sharma is capable of giving a brisk start while Virat Kohli has been playing the role of a finisher in his new avatar. The duo have seen some of the best attacks and they will be the pivot for the rest of the batters to play around them. The absence of Shubman Gill due to illness has put an extra burden on these two warhorses. For the second successive match, Kohli kept his emotions in check to make sure that India cruise to victory at his home turf. It could probably be his last World Cup match at his home ground in New Delhi as the next World Cup in India is eight years away.
Afghan skipper shows the way
The Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi lends the much-needed stability to the batting. He has the attitude to play the long innings, which is lacking with most Afghan batters. They are still in the Twenty20 mode despite getting the Test status. Shahidi comes with a different mindset and his knock against India will do a world of good to his confidence and for the future of Afghanistan. He was at ease against the Indian spinners and pacers during his 121-run fifth wicket partnership with Azmatullah Omarzai.
Afghans depend on individual brilliance
Afghanistan have some brilliant match-winners in both batting and bowling, but collectively they are not able to pull their weight as a team. To be world-beaters it requires a long time, years of experience and should be able to do the right things to win in tight situations. Afghanistan have many players who ply their trade in many top franchise leagues across the world, but still they are not able to mature as players who could adapt their game according to the format. They seem to be playing in one mode, the team need to evolve and it is time they put their heads together.
Choice between Ashwin and Shardul
The Indian team seemed to have made up their plans. Flat or bouncy wickets, Shardul Thakur will be in the eleven while a Ravichandran Ashwin will be included when there is a hint of turn. Shardul has not been able to evoke the same confidence that Ashwin would be able to in his bowling. Despite the conditions and the pitch, the off-spinner will be a better choice to curtail the run-flow in the middle overs. But Shardul is a better fielder and could play the big shots with ease. It is a difficult choice to make for Rohit Sharma.
Siraj or Shami is the question
Mohammed Siraj might have had an off day, but with the likes of Mohammed Shami in the bench, the Hyderabad pacer can’t afford to bowl badly. There is a heavy burden on his shoulders. Siraj has been consistent in recent times, but his bowling against Afghanistan didn’t live up to the expectations. Afghan batters are known to go for the attack and he should learn how to bowl in the powerplay and keep the batters quiet when there is no purchase from the pitch. It’s an experience that will stand in good stead for Siraj in the bigger contests to come. Siraj has been leaking runs in both the matches so far with skipper Rohit Sharma showing his displeasure during the final stages of the match against Australia. It could be due to the pressure of playing his first World Cup on the other hand Shami has been India's key to Indian attack in the 2019 World Cup with a tally of 14 wickets.