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The Hitman's Legacy: Chin Up Rohit, You Led the Indian Team by Example

There were many occasions during the Cup when he could have well gone for his personal glory. But he chose the team.

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Travis Head had to cover a lot of ground, and the catch was not an easy one.

He, however, saw that this was too precious an opportunity to miss and raced with his eyes focused upward. He made a perfectly timed dive as the bowler, Glenn Maxwell, lifted his fist in joy when the ball finally touched down in Head's hands.

In Motera, during the 2023 Cricket World Cup final, there was an instant of absolute silence when the catch was taken.

In all of India, there was complete despair as their skipper walked off after blasting 47 off just 31 deliveries.

The goal of Indian captain Rohit Sharma was to end the batting powerplay strongly. Before coming out to go for a third consecutive boundary, he took Glenn Maxwell to task and blasted the all-rounder for a four and a six.

Unfortunately, Rohit mishit the shot and eked the ball skyward towards Travis Head at cover point. A spectacular catch, possibly the greatest of the competition, was taken by the Australian opener in a moment of athletic fielding, something that we saw throughout while the Aussies were bowling.

Additionally, Rohit’s campaign came to an end, three runs short of the reaching the 600 mark after 11 innings. The Indian captain finished second after his teammate Virat Kohli.

A few decades earlier, in the 1983 World Cup final, an equally challenging catch made by Kapil Dev off the bowling of Madan Lal dismissed ace batter Vivian Richards, helping India defeat the mighty West Indies.

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The Indian Captain Leading by Example

Rohit’s form and impact on any of the opponents participating in the World Cup was no less than that of Sir Viv.

Throughout the tournament, the right-handed opener decided to spearhead his team’s offensive in every sense of the word, even in the remaining one game against Australia.

This was, after all, his dream for the last 12 years, ever since he missed his chance to be part of the World Cup-winning team in 2011.

The 36-year-old knew the importance of Sunday’s final all too well. To be remembered in the times to come, Rohit had to win this final for his team and for his country. He knew it well that “people only remember the conquerors and not the losers.”

Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni became immortal because they held the World Cup trophies in their hands.

Rohit showed some exemplary leadership and character throughout the tournament.

He has played the enforcer so well that it has made things easy for the batsmen who have come after him. Maintaining such commitment requires a strong sense of moral integrity and the Mumbaikar had enough of that in him.

In fact, Rohit started taking this load of laying a well-set platform to his remaining batters well before the WC. There were whispers during this time that Indian skipper has a problem facing left-arm speedsters who targets his ribs.

And Rohit showed his own way of handling such rumours. How hard or how long did he practice in the nets for such deliveries is something that only he can tell, but he put all those whispers to rest.

He tackled Pakistani leftie Shaheen Shah Afridi, Kiwi spearhead Trent Boult, along with England speedster David Willey in his own ruthless style during the tournament. He obviously could not do much against Mitchell Starc in the earlier game as he got dismissed for zero.

But when he met him again, he treated Starc in a manner almost similar, dispatching him over the offside for a six on the last ball of his third over. This was the same over when the Australian took the wicket of Shubman Gill.

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Incredible Numbers in the 2023 World Cup

Rohit is a classic case of restricting one’s aggression to cricket alone.

He took that sixth-ball duck against Australia in the opener in Chennai as his eye-opener. Since then, Rohit thrashed almost all his opponents with a scoreline of 131, 86, 48, 46, 87, 4, 40, 61, 47.

As many as six times, the Indian captain quickly stitched opening stands worth more than fifty, including two 100-run partnerships1 during the competition, to demoralise the opposition’s attack.

In just 18.4 overs, he and Ishan Kishan scored an incredible 156 run stand against Afghanistan. Rohit, with Shubman Gill on his side, also scored 88 runs in 12.4 overs against Bangladesh, 71 runs in 11.1 overs against New Zealand, and 62 runs in just 5.5 overs against South Africa.

In their subsequent league match against Netherlands, the pair scored 100 runs in just 11.5 overs.

In the semi-finals, Rohit and Gill combined for 71 runs in 8.2 overs, leaving the Kiwis struggling for breath during the knockout game. Many feel that Rohit’s early pounding of the opposition was just as important as Kohli and Iyer’s hundreds in driving India to a winning total in the semi-final match.

Rohit also became the highest-scoring captain in a single World Cup edition. The Hitman, as he is fondly called, has scored 597 runs, which bettered the Kiwis’ skipper Kane Williamson's mark of 578 runs in the 2019 World Cup.

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Playing for the Team, not Personal Milestones

The Indian skipper’s approach, in fact, ruined many a plans for nearly all opponents. There were many occasions during the World Cup when he could well have gone for his personal glory.

There were at least four or even more occasions (if you count those three magical 40s also) where he could have converted his half-centuries into the hundreds to make it rich total of 100s in the tournament, instead of just one.

But he chose his team over his individual goals.

The attacking role that was given to him had no place for personal milestones. His fearsome intent during the first 10 overs, that is, the Powerplay period, in his first ten innings, yielded 354 runs off 266 deliveries, at a electric strike-rate of 133.

His aggregate of 597 runs at a strike rate of 125.94 laid down platform for Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul to freely express themselves. Rohit’s achievement as a leader cannot be counted any less than those three centuries by Kohli, not by any means.

Rohit has, single-handedly, won many games for India in the first Powerplay with his fearless batting. It was his batting that also allowed Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami to come out and bowl without really worrying too much about runs pressure.

The hitman may be retiring soon, but he will surely go down in the history of the game as a talisman, an inspiration, and a worthy leader. Indeed, the ‘selfless” Rohit Sharma captured the hearts of billions of fans with his altruistic demeanour.

(Chander Shekhar Luthra is a sports journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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