Dubai: A six-month break from any form of cricket may have posed a few question marks over the match fitness of Rohit Sharma, but not certainly not his class. The Mumbai Indians captain, after a rare failure in their first game, chose a hapless Kolkata Knight Riders attack on Wednesday evening in Abu Dhabi to show why he is regarded as one of the white ball giants of the modern game.
It was his 37th half-century in IPL - which came in quite trying circumstances with the sapping heat and complete lack of match practice which seemed to be taking it’s toll on the man who had a dream 2019 season. Not willing to slacken the tempo which saw Mumbai drifting away in the first game, Rohit batted deep into their innings - getting out only in the 18th over by which time the champions were looking good for a handsome total.
Which one of his six sixes would be my pick? Well, they mostly came from the audacious pulls - a hallmark of the Rohit Sharma repertoire - but I would go for the two which he picked up against Pat Cummins. The Australian, one of the finest fast bowlers in the game today, had just come into the attack and Rohit dispatched two of his short deliveries over deep midwicket in regal fashion.
One should spare a thought about Cummins, the costliest acquisition among overseas players in the last auction, who could not eventually complete his four overs and ended up with unflattering figures of 3-0-49-0. It must have been not easy for the Australian, who alongwith Eoin Morgan and Tom Banton, had completed their shortened quarantine on arrival from England only on Wednesday afternoon and was a part of the playing XI straightaway against a rampaging Rohit and Suryakumar Yadav.
Much like most Australian pace bowlers, Cummins prefers to hit the deck and it remains to be seen how he improvises in these conditions in the coming matches. He is too good a bowler and has to give leadership to the largely inexperienced fast bowling unit of the Knights.
Moving on, Brendon McCullum’s team has to take a hard look at their team composition if the Knights have to emulate their 2014 feat when the journey started from the UAE. I think they need to find a way of fitting Tom Banton in among the four foreigners - as the opening combination of young Shubman Gill and Sunil Narine looks a ragtag one for me. Narine, who had been tried by the team management for a couple of years now, can be used as an occasional gamble if the team is looking to chase a steep total - but it may be unfair to expect him to deliver against quality pace attacks consistently.
It’s a tricky proposition, but Banton is a player who was being compared to Kevin Pietersen the other day by KKR’s chief mentor David Hussey. It’s still early days, so let’s wait and watch!