Before he made his Test debut, Rohit Sharma had already played 108 ODIs and 36 T20Is for India. And that memorable moment happened on November 7, 2013, at Eden Gardens Kolkata. Rohit became India’s 280th Test player and what made it more special was the fact that he was handed his Test cap by none other than Sachin Tendulkar. There was another player making his Test debut along with Rohit. That was Bengal pacer Mohammed Shami, who even today, is an integral part of the team.
By then, he had won the World T20 title and also the ICC Champions trophy 2013. His promotion to the opening slot in the Champions Trophy turned his career around. From there, he went from strength to strength and today is a part of India’s squad in the Test, ODI and the T20I format. He still finds it tough to make it to the test squad amidst heavyweights like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli, but Rohit patiently waits his chance on the sidelines.
The talent was always there when it came to Rohit, but whether he has the ability to play at the highest level was yet to be tested. He averaged over 60 in First-Class cricket, but never got a chance to show his skills at the Test level. He got his chance.
Shami’s 4-for had bundled West Indies out for 234 on Day One. Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay had batted the day out without any damage. It was advantage India, at the end of first day’s play.
India were in a spot of bother when they lost Sachin Tendulkar – playing his final Test series – with the score reading 82-4. Rohit walked out with the bat for the first time in India’s whites. But Kohli was dismissed almost immediately and India were suddenly tottering at 83-5. Rohit’s first scoring shot was a four off Sheldon Cottrell – Another debutant – off the 12th ball he faced. Runs became hard to come by, but India were getting the odd boundaries here and there and made it to lunch at 120-5.
West Indies kept it tight even after lunch. About an hour into the session Tino Best got rid of MS Dhoni for 42. With only the tail left, West Indies could sense that they could get a significant lead on the board.
The Rohit-Ashwin show
Ravichandran Ashwin walked in next. He had already scored a century against the West Indies, early in his career at the Wankhede. He needed something silimar if India were to get a big lead.
Rohit brought up his maiden Test fifty off 95 balls and looked a bit more settled after that. He was the senior partner and needed to bat well along with Ashwin and rest of the tail. To ease the pressure on Rohit, Ashwin was scoring at a good pace at the other end. India, in the end, added 109 runs in that session, losing just Dhoni.
Ashwin brought up his fifty off 71 balls and the duo had also brought up their 100-run stand and had also opened up a small lead, which looked a tad difficult at one point. 13 Indian batsmen had scored a century on Test debut. Rohit became the 14th – albeit in a lucky manner. He did not care as he celebrated his maiden Test ton on debut. He had to wait a long time for it, but his moment finally came.
Now the task was to take India to stumps without losing any more wickets. Rohit was in full flow, striking the ball well and collecting one boundary after another. Ashwin too was keeping the scoreboard ticking. India extended the lead past 200 and went into stumps in a commanding position at 353-6 (lead 219).
When play resumed on the next day, neither Ashwin nor Rohit were done. Ashwin got to his second century in Tests in the third over of the day. Rohit then reached his 150 – only the second player to achieve this feat after Dhawan. One would not bet against him getting to a double century at this rate. Rohit and Ashwin did not get overwhelmed with their personal feat and carried on. They knew they had a chance to bat West Indies out of the match.
Veerasammy Permaul in his first ball of the day, dismissed Rohit for 177 off 301 after the Indian batsman did not offer a shot. Rohit was disappointed with that decision but walked back with head held high. His innings had not just justified his place in the team, but had also dug India out from a troublesome situation. That gave him and the selectors believe that he perhaps belongs at the Test level. His wicket brought an end to the magnificent 280-run stand for the seventh wicket with Ashwin.
Ashwin too was dismissed three overs later for 124 – his highest Test score till date. West Indies dismissed the rest of the batsmen soon after that and India were bowled out for 453, thereby taking a 219-run lead.
What happened next?
A 5-for on debut for Shami handed India a victory by an innings and 51 runs.
Rohit scored another century in the second Test at Mumbai (111*) as India won the series 2-0. Rohit became the third Indian after Mohammad Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly to score a century in their first two Tests.
Rohit never scored another Test century after that.
The series marked the end of Sachin Tendulkar’s international career.
A little under 2 years later, Rohit became the second Indian after Suresh Raina to score a century in all 3 formats (106 vs South Africa at Dharamsala – T20I)
West Indies 234 (Marlon Samuels 65, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 36; Mohammed Shami 4-71, Ravichandran Ashwin 2-52) & 168 (Darren Bravo 37, Kieran Powell 36; Mohammed Shami 5-47, Ravichandran Ashwin 3-46) lost to India 453 (Rohit Sharma 177, Ravichandran Ashwin 124; Shane Shillingford 6-167, Veerasammy Permaul 2-67) by an innings and 51 runs.
Player of the match: Rohit Sharma