If you had asked India of what are some of the boxes that they would have wanted to tick, Shubman Gill, Mohammed Siraj, Rohit Sharma and Shardul Thakur would have been four of them. At the end of the dominating three-match ODI series, India have ticked all those aforementioned boxes.
While Siraj was a regular menace to the New Zealand batters, Gill was an absolute thorn to the New Zealand bowlers with a double-century in the first ODI followed by a century in the third encounter. If that wasn’t enough, Rohit broke his three-year drought with a century of his own, leaving all the eyes on the all-rounder Thakur.
With the New Zealand batters putting India under the pump, it needed a spell and half from Shardul to turn the fortunes around. The all-rounder did it with relative ease, including bowling a knuckle delivery that caught the serial run-getter Tom Latham by total surprise. Indian skipper Rohit Sharma in the post-match press conference talked about the ‘skilled’ Thakur.
“He’s (Shardul) got the knack of picking up crucial wickets for us. There are so many instances, he has come and picked up important wickets for us. He’s very critical to us, so I just hope he keeps putting up performances like this and will only do good for the team and himself,” Rohit raved about Shardul’s skills in the post-match press conference.
“Today also, he’s played a lot of cricket but he was very smart. Shardul definitely has some skills. The knuckle delivery that he bowled to Tom Latham was well planned, it was Virat and Hardik’s idea. It is a plan that worked out really well,” he added.
Gill's plan for India
Gill has almost been like god’s plan for the Indian ODI setup. In the wake of Shikhar Dhawan’s unwavering form, India were in a desperate search for the new-age opener. Gill answered those calls like it was destined to, with 1254 runs, averaging 73.76 in the 50-over format while still striking at nearly 110.
“Honestly, the way he (Shubman) was batting, I don’t think much needs to be told. He understands his game really well, he paces his innings very well, you have to go big and deep. He has big hundreds but to get a double-hundred, it is never easy,” said Rohit.
The 24-year-old broke the scene when he launched an assault on the seasoned Australian pace unit at Gabba, which was Australia’s fortress. Not only did he help India break the streak but also showed that he was destined for big things with his batting display. Rohit recalled that innings and added that he has just grown from strength to strength.
“When he got the double-hundred, the next best score was 34, so he understands his role and responsibility. He’s got great maturity, the way he thinks and approaches his game. The first time when I saw him was during the Border-Gavaskar Test series, and the way he has been batting in ODI cricket, it is wonderful to watch. I get the feeling that he understands his game really well, that’s the key.”
Meanwhile in India’s bowling, there is a serious gulf in the quality. Siraj is head and shoulders above the rest of the pack with 38 wickets in ODI cricket since 2022. 25 of those wickets have come in the powerplay phase, one that India seemingly struggled for the major portion of the last three years. Rohit reserved a special praise for the right-arm seamer, calling him ‘vital’ to the setup.
“About Siraj, I have spoken a lot about him. The more cricket he’s played, the better he has got. It is all about understanding your own game and Siraj has done exactly that in the last two years in whichever format he has played. To take the new ball, swing it and pick up important wickets. He’s bowled well in the middle-overs as well. The more he plays, the better he gets,” Rohit said about Siraj.
“Umran is very young, he hasn’t played much but he will definitely get better. There is something about him. We just need to back him and play him more.”
Rohit hopes for Bumrah's availability
With the four-match Test series against Australia around the corner, India will be without the services of their first-choice pacer, Jasprit Bumrah, who is still recovering from an injury. Rohit hoped that the right-arm speedster would be available for selection for the last two Tests against Australia.
“About Bumrah, I’m not sure, he isn’t available for the first two matches. I hope that he plays the last two Tests. We don’t want to take any risk with him, we have a lot of cricket to follow after that as well. We are in constant touch with the doctors and the physio,” he added.
It has been three years since Rohit last scored an ODI century but when asked about that, the opener had stern words about the broadcasters, and insisted that they should not mislead people with such half-baked information.
“Three years sounds like a lot but I have played only 12-13 ODIs, sometimes we need to show the right thing as well. We haven’t played a lot of ODI cricket in the last year, so the broadcaster too have to show the right thing and not mislead the people with half-baked information.”
Rohit said this at the post-match presentation too but had to add that all that the Men in Blue are looking at is the prestigious ODI World Cup at home, something that the Indian skipper has his eyes firmly on.
“We are preparing for the big event (ODI World Cup) and we want to be ready with everything. There are a few challenges that we need to be ready for and few combinations as well. This time before the World Cup helps us achieve all of that. We were quite confident during the T20 World Cup but the things didn’t go our way. We want to be ready this time around. We just want to keep ticking all the boxes.”