During the post-match presentation after the eight-wicket thumping of Bangladesh in Rajkot on Thursday, commentator Harsha Bhogle asked Rohit Sharma if he was aware that, by virtue of being the Indian cricket captain, a camera is trained on him at all times.
The stand-in captain responded with a sheepish grin, said he is a very emotional person on the field and also that he will be mindful of where the camera is from next match onwards. In between those comments, the Indian captain also admitted to another thing which could be missed in the aftermath of a convincing win: for the first 40 minutes or so on the night, the hosts were sloppy on the field, to put it mildly.
The bowling was wayward, the fielding was ordinary, the body language of the team not the best we have seen in recent times... but true to the nature of the format, India turned things around in the blink of an eye. First Rohit sharma, the captain made a couple of brave tactical calls and then Rohit Sharma, the batsman, put his foot down, stepped on the gas and left Bangladesh far behind in the rear view mirror as India cruised to a series-levelling win.
Here are the key talking points from the match:
Khaleel Ahmed’s night to forget
At various points of the night, the Indian bowlers did come under pressure but no one let it get to them as much as Khaleel Ahmed did. After having finished his spell in Delhi by conceding four boundaries on the trot to Mushfiqur Rahim in the first T20I, Ahmed’s first three balls in Rajkot were also hit for fours by Mohammad Naim: seven length or short-of-length balls, seven boundaries. It was a sequence that summed up India’s struggles till that point in the series.
While the bowling and fielding units collectively recovered after Bangladesh raced to 78/1 in the first 10 overs, Ahmed’s night did not get any better. Rishabh Pant redeemed himself after a stumping gaffe that denied Yuzvendra Chahal a wicket; Krunal Pandya made amends for his dropped catch in Delhi by holding on to a mishit sweep from Rahim; even Sharma made up for a poor dropped catch by taking a sharp, high chance later in the innings.
But Ahmed kept erring in his lengths despite his captain’s trust in him to bowl his full quota. The left-arm pacer was being seen as the weak link in this Indian bowling lineup, and he could not shake it off. The 17th over he bowled was arguably the poorest of his four, despite getting him his solitary wicket: he kept angling it wide off Mahmudullah from over the wicket at a good length, despite the third-man fielder up in the circle. And was duly punished.
He conceded nine boundaries in all, during his four overs. The rest of the bowlers combined to concede seven fours and a six in the remaining 16 overs.
Chahal and Sundar deliver
The first T20I saw Yuzvendra Chahal bowl a superb four-over spell but not get rewarded for it, due to Pant and Sharma’s misuse of DRS and Pandya’s dropped catch to let Rahim off. And when, in his first over in Rajkot, Pant was deemed to have messed up a clear stumping chance and he conceded 13 runs due to no mistake of his, Chahal might have been forgiven for thinking this is just not his lucky series.
But he bounced back in style, going for just 15 runs in the next three overs combined, while picking up two crucial wickets in the 13th over of the innings: the period when India started pulling Bangladesh back.
“We are team players, these things happen... even I have dropped catches in the past. No one wants to miss a catch or stumping, so no hard feelings with Pant. Just hard luck,” Chahal said with his trademark nonchalance after the match.
And alongside the wrist-spinner, another youngster making a mark for India in the shortest format — Washington Sundar — showed he is not just a one-trick pony. Often used to bowling three overs in the powerplay, where he fires the ball in most of the times, Washington bowled three of his overs outside the powerplay this time, showing his ability to vary the pace and length to good effect.
It was no wonder then that Sharma had special praise for the “very smart” spin combination of Chahal and Sundar during his post-match chat. India started to turn things around, no pun intended, because of their two front-line spinners.
Rohit Sharma’s breathtaking innings
And finally, where do we start with Rohit Sharma’s innings?
It was a special occasion for him as he became the first Indian man to play 100 T20Is but it turned out to be just another night in the office for the game’s foremost white-ball opener. For all his brilliance in the shorter formats, one does not often see Sharma go ballistic from the get go. He usually takes his time, lets Shikhar Dhawan do the initial damage and then takes over.
But on Thursday night in Rajkot, Sharma was in no mood to play second fiddle. He decided to make a statement: the Indian captain went after Bangladesh’s best bowler early on and laid down the marker. In the fourth over of the powerplay, Sharma hit two fours and a majestic straight six off Mustafizur Rahman and he did not look back from there.
The fifty-run partnership came up in 5.2 overs, with Sharma making 36 off 18 balls. The 100-run partnership came up in 10.2 overs, with Sharma making 70 off 32 balls. This was a one-man show and Dhawan had the best seat in the house.
And how about this for a statistic?
Starting from January 1, 2015 (an arbitrary reference point), the most number of sixes hit in international cricket (all three formats combined):
Rohit Sharma: 289
Martin Guptill: 174
Eoin Morgan: 171
Chris Gayle: 155
Jos Buttler: 147
Rohit Sharma, perhaps egged up on by India’s shoddy start to the night, produced one of his best batting efforts, filled with signature sweeps and pulls for sixes: a knock that left Bangladesh (and many fans watching) breathless. In his trademark style, continuing his dream 2019, Sharma brought India back into the series.