India got off to a winning start in the World Cup on Wednesday, thanks in large part to Rohit Sharma’s century on a tough pitch to bat on. Although it was the slowest of the 26 he has scored so far, the patience he demonstrated to carry the Indian run-chase has prompted skipper Virat Kohli to call it 'by far, his best ODI innings'.
"Hats off to Rohit, his innings was special. On the field, we were confident as a group. With the bat, we had to work our way through because of the attack they have. That's where Rohit's innings was very very special. You need experienced guys to stand up. One of the top three getting a hundred is something we bank on,” Kohli said after the match.
The effusive praise is significant since Rohit Sharma has had many memorable innings, including three double centuries in the ODI format. So why does Kohli rank this one his best?
"In my opinion this is by far his best ODI innings because of the kind of pressure the first game brings from a World Cup point of view," Kohli said at his post-match media briefing. "Rohit had a bit of luck but he did what we didn't do - get a hundred and win the game."
Rohit Sharma had seen Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli depart early and played a steady innings to take India home in a nervous run chase, withering the storm Kagiso Rabada was brewing with his pace and accuracy.
“A lot of times batsmen tend to hit their way out of the situation. But he was very composed, he was very -- he's played so many games, we expect a lot of maturity and a lot of responsibility from someone like him,” Kohli added.
India, who had to wait for long to play their first game, outplayed South Africa by six wickets to begin their World Cup campaign on an emphatic note.
Kohli also lauded star pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who removed both South African openers early, a blow the Proteas could not recover from.
"We were going to bowl first. They were coming off two losses, so you have to make sure you get the first 15 overs right. Jasprit is operating at a different level to be honest. The way he's bowling, the batsmen feel the pressure all the time. Not the other way round. Chahal (four wickets) was outstanding as well."