CHENNAI: As India captain Rohit Sharma won the toss in the third T20I against Afghanistan at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, two things were evident even before he spoke about what the hosts were going to do. First, they were going to bat first, and second some players who were warming the bench were going to get a chance. The series was won and there was no reason not to.
However, what would not have been in Rohit’s 2024 bingo card was the trajectory of this series. He got out for consecutive ducks. In the third, India had collapsed to 22/4. Then, the skipper, with Rinku Singh, rescued them to 212/4 with a splendid century before the match went into two Super Overs — a first in international cricket. In the end, India prevailed to win the series 3-0.
Earlier, in the first over, when the umpire gave it leg-byes to a glance that went for four in the first over on Wednesday, Rohit was gesturing that he had got some bat on it. The desperation to get off the mark after two ducks. Over the next four overs he would stand at other end and watch Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli and Sanju Samson all depart. Both Kohli and Samson got out for first-ball ducks. Shivam Dube, too, did not last long. Joined by Rinku, Rohit would stroll along, something India had consciously chosen not to in the last 12 months, taking the score to 61/4 at the halfway mark. Now, with Rohit, in the shortest format, the struggle always has been about sustaining through the first half. If he gets to the second half, he has often been unstoppable. Wednesday was yet another example of that as Rohit and Rinku made a mockery out of Afghanistan’s bowling, smashing 151 runs in the last ten overs. He hit a 61-ball 121 with Rinku smashing 69 from 39 balls.
Going into the series, there were questions over where Rohit and Kohli would fit in the team for the World Cup. Jaiswal and Rinku have shown enough to retain their place, but as for others there is still room for discussion. What works for Rohit is that he is the captain of the team. And on Wednesday, with his century — which he played in his usual template — he may just have tilted the balance a little bit more in his favour.
Brief scores: India 212/4 in 20 ovs (Rohit 121 n.o, Rinku 69 n.o) bt Afghanistan 212/6 in 20 ovs (Naib 55 n.o; Washington 3/18). Super Over 1: Afghanistan 16/1 tied with India 16/0; Super Over 2: India 11/2 bt Afghanistan 1/2. India won in second Super Over (10 runs).