Rohit Sharma A Director's Perspective.

In the grand arena of Ahmedabad, a stage unrivaled in size, the enthralling act unfolded: India versus Pakistan, a sequel to their thrilling World Cup clash from a year ago. The spotlight fixated on over number 28, directed by none other than Rohit Sharma.

The curtain rose to a hushed audience. The cacophonous, partisan fervor had evolved into a tense murmur. The nearly packed stadium’s occupants were seated, fanning themselves with pink pamphlets thoughtfully provided on their bucket seats to combat the sweltering afternoon. Pakistan had reached 131/2, with Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, their star batters, joining forces for a 50-run partnership. The outcome of this innings, and perhaps the entire match, balanced delicately on the thread of this partnership.

The previous four overs, controlled by the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja, had yielded only 11 runs. Rohit had stationed a fielder at fine-leg in the inner circle and another at deep mid-wicket against the two batters, sending a clear message. Boundaries were still attainable, but Rizwan and Babar had to contemplate sweeping the spinners off their nagging lines. They made a couple of attempts, but neither blinked. Rizwan, a proficient sweeper, even chose not to take the risk. Perhaps they had grown wise to Rohit’s tactics after the two wickets fell.

As Siraj later revealed, Abdullah Shafique had been dismissed with a clever short-ball strategy. After instructing Siraj to deliver a short ball, Rohit shifted the fine-leg fielder squarer, hinting at a repeat. However, Siraj surprised with a full nip-backer that trapped Shafique on the crease. A similar field change may have influenced Imam-ul-Haq’s dismissal as well, shortly after he had cut a short ball from Hardik Pandya for four. This time, Rohit moved his sweeper cover to deep point, tempting Imam to drive. The fuller length delivery led to an edge and a wicket.

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There may have been a temptation to prolong this run squeeze, but Rohit eventually took the ball himself. He decided to end the spin sequence, though it wasn’t the local hero, the typical wicket-taker, returning to the attack.

Mohammed Siraj coaxed a rare mistimed shot from Babar with his second spell, but it fell short of a diving Hardik Pandya and raced away for four. Siraj’s next four balls brought Pakistan 11 runs, matching the tally from the previous four overs. Meanwhile, Kuldeep offered Babar a juicy full toss that was dispatched for a half-century. In the 30th over, Pakistan was 155/2, and it seemed Rohit’s decision to bowl Siraj might have backfired.

Then, a plot twist unfolded. A length ball on off-stump led to Babar’s downfall as he attempted a risky dab. The scrambled-seam delivery skidded off the surface, striking the top of off.

Throughout the Asia Cup and the early stages of this World Cup, Rohit displayed a versatile bowling attack that could create openings. Kuldeep followed up Siraj’s over, conceding just one run. Jasprit Bumrah and Jadeja were warming up for their spells. A change was imminent, but Rohit instructed Kuldeep to continue, a seventh consecutive over. He knew that Saud Shakeel struggled to read Kuldeep’s deliveries. The spinner trapped Shakeel in front, securing an LBW on review. Iftikhar Ahmed attempted to break the pattern with a sweep for four but found himself bowled by a googly two balls later.]

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It was time to finish things off. Jasprit Bumrah entered, and Rizwan departed. An off-cutter deceived the Pakistan vice-captain, bringing back memories of Bumrah’s deliveries to Shaun Marsh and Ollie Robinson. Shadab Khan also lost his off-stump but was beaten by a reverse-swinging ball on the other edge. Six overs later, Pakistan was bowled out for 191.

Rohit had orchestrated it all with a resolute sense of purpose. However, he had more work to do, transitioning from the puppet-master to the star of the show.

He began regally, flicking Shaheen Afridi for a boundary. As the darkening sky and setting sun created an electric atmosphere, Rohit’s fifty came off 36 deliveries. Those pink pamphlets were now transformed into celebratory paper rockets, soaring across the stands. Towards the end of his 86 runs from 63 balls, Rohit showcased his mastery, taking control of everything Pakistan threw at him.


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