Man of the series, India v/s Australia
Result: India win 3-2, the first series win in India after 27 years.
Before the 7-match India-Australia ODI series, Rohit Sharma had had moderate success as an opening batsman in 2013. He had opened once before in a series just before the 2011 World Cup in South Africa, and had not managed to cross 50 runs in those 5 innings. Yusuf Pathan took his place after blasting the South African attack in one of those games.
Rohit was brought in at the expense of Sehwag against England in the penultimate ODI of the 5-match series. Rohit opened the batting and made 83. He failed in the next game, and then came the Champions Trophy after a successful IPL campaign. Consecutive 50s against South Africa and West Indies were overshadowed by India’s new batting star Shikhar Dhawan and his disdainful centuries. A few starts later, in the tri-series in the Caribbean (his favorite hunting ground), Rohit was given the ‘most reliable player’ award after two fifties and a couple of 40s. Still, there was no century. He was on the edge, and a lean Zimbabwe series followed- he ended it with a 60, just about saving his place for the next ODI series.
His career average was still only hovering around 31, and his strike rate was still only 75 before the Australia series.
His rebirth as an opener hadn’t really yielded solid results yet- except for three century partnerships with the more dynamic Dhawan.
7 matches later (5 with results), Rohit’s average is now close to 37 and his strike rate is almost 80. He reached 1000 ODI runs for the year as well as broke the world record for the highest runs in a bilateral series.
Close to 500 runs in the series, 1 century, 1 double century, 1 fifty and 1 forty. His 209 in the final match broke numerous batting records. His acceleration in the last six overs was similar to something that had only ever been done once before- the 2011 World Cup when Taylor launched into Shoaib Akhtar and the rest of the Pakistani bowlers.
Even if this was a series that showcased the lack of balance between batting and bowling, Rohit managed to outscore every in-form batsman in both sides. This was a series where Australia scored 300 four times, and India thrice. It was a series that will be remembered as the death of ODI bowling- but many will remember it for the final stamped arrival of Rohit Sharma onto the world scene.
This was long overdue, but it was just around the corner for over 6 years. He could have done this long ago, but it may have only been appropriate to steal the limelight from a retiring legend in his last month of international cricket. He had already taken over the reigns of a young Mumbai Indians team, making them the most successful franchise of 2013. Captaincy seemed to have given him that spark- and he married his long renowned talent with temperament to provide one of the classiest batting performances against a bowling attack that was way better than his own team’s attack.
It all changed during his little-remembered 42 in the first match of the series at Pune. Chasing 301, India folded for 232, with Kohli top scoring with 64. But Rohit’s 42 of 47 was a sign of things to come- he was the only batsman who looked comfortable at the crease until he got too cute while trying to nick Watson to third man, again throwing away his wicket after a start. The agony was apparent on his face, and you could see that he had promised himself something. He was never going to do that again.
During the Champions League final against Rajasthan Royals, Rohit had come in and played one of the most phenomenal shots of the year- a six over fine leg that had even stunned fielder Rahane standing at mid wicket. He had swiped the ball from way outside off stump with a flick of his wrist, and deposited the ball far into the crowd. It was an unbelievable shot, a shot that elicited shocked expressions from opposing numbers- their faces may have given Rohit the confidence to believe in himself again.
After all, it is not often that Virat Kohli is overshadowed in a successful ODI series.