Rohit was the firestarter as India raced past fifty in the fifth over and he finished with 40 off 24 balls, having provided the ignition needed to score 326 for 5, a total that was well above par on an Eden Gardens pitch that helped spin. But after the game, he said his approach was not pre-meditated.
“Not really, that is something we didn’t discuss, to be honest,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation when asked whether there was a conscious effort to be aggressive against South Africa. “Gill and I have been batting together for a long time now and that’s how we have batted for the majority of our innings together. We let our instincts do the talking for us, we let it take over in the middle and not pre-plan everything. If the wicket is good, we want to go out there and play the kind of cricket we are playing and everything falls in place.”
“If we look at how we played in the last three games, we played better [against South Africa] in terms of adapting to the situation,” Rohit said. “We were put under little bit of pressure against England where we lost three wickets upfront and then we got ourselves collected and got a decent score and the seamers did the job for us. In the last game as well, we lost a wicket in the first over, but we stitched a very big partnership there and then again got to a good score, and again, seamers came to the party.
“Again today as well, it was not an easy pitch, you needed someone like Kohli to go out there and bat the situation. Not to forget [Shreyas] Iyer, creating that partnership for us and getting the runs on the board and then we knew we had the runs on the board and it was time to keep the ball in the right areas, and the pitch will do its thing.”
Rohit had words of praise for Mohammed Shami and Iyer. Despite not playing the first four league games, Shami is India’s leading wicket-taker at the World Cup, with 16 wickets in just 26 overs, at an astonishing strike rate of 9.7, average of 7.00, an economy of 4.30. Iyer, meanwhile, has scored consecutive half-centuries against South Africa and Sri Lanka, after scoring just one in his first six innings of the World Cup.
“Honestly, even if they wouldn’t have repaid, I would have still kept that faith,” Rohit said. “It’s important to let guys have freedom in the middle. It is important to make them understand what is expected of them. And I also understand it’s not going to happen every game. You have to keep the trust in the guys who have done the job for the team. It cannot be done every day but when it happens, everything looks good.
“That’s what happened with Shami. In the first few games, he was not part of the XI, but for him to come back the way he has in the last four games shows the mindset and the quality of the player. Same with Iyer, wasn’t getting the runs he was expecting by his own standards but [in] the last two games, showed the kind of class he has.”
In Hardik Pandya’s absence, Ravindra Jadeja has stepped up to deliver as India’s sole allrounder. After not batting in the first four games, he helped seal the chase against New Zealand (39* off 44), and provided powerful finishes while batting first against Sri Lanka (35 off 24) and South Africa (29* off 15). He’s also taken 14 wickets with an economy of 3.76, including a five-wicket haul against South Africa.
“Jadeja has been really good,” Rohit said. “He is a big match-winner for us, playing in all three formats for us for many years now. He keeps doing the job, goes under the radar a lot but today was a classic case of what Jadeja is for us – scores runs at the back end and then to come out and take wickets. Very important player. He knows exactly what is expected of him from the team.”
With eight wins in eight games, India have secured the top spot in the league with a game in hand, against Netherlands in Bengaluru on November 12. After that, they will play their semi-final against the team that finishes fourth in the league, but Rohit isn’t looking too far ahead just yet.
“This is something that we have been talking constantly in our changing room. Not to get ahead of ourselves. There is still a long way to go in the tournament,” Rohit said. “It’s important that we stay in the moment. That’s the constant talk from game one, it’s not like we want to change anything or we are talking about anything else. When we turn up for the game, we want to play well and to our potential.”