“Arre! World Cup jeetne ke baad phodo, yaar.” (“Burst these firecrackers after winning the World Cup!”)
The sound of firecrackers boomed through the walls as Rohit Sharma sat patiently for his post-match press conference, wearing a smile that seldom left his face for much of Sunday’s short Asia Cup final that culminated in India winning their first multi-nation tournament since September 2018.
That tournament happened to be the Asia Cup, too, in Dubai, where Rohit had been standing in for a rested Virat Kohli. This one, though, was different, not least because the next few months could define Rohit’s captaincy legacy.
India had a number of niggling questions leading into the tournament. Unlike in 2018, when MS Dhoni was the whole and soul behind the stumps, India didn’t quite know who their first-choice wicketkeeper was until a week before the tournament with doubts still hovering over KL Rahul’s fitness. Then, he picked up a “different niggle” to the one he was in rehab for, and India had to hand the gloves to Ishan Kishan for the first two games. They also had another headache to solve when Shreyas Iyer, also on his way back from a long injury break following back surgery, pulled up with back spasms.
Who knows how things would have panned out had Iyer, India’s designated No. 4, not picked up that niggle. But now, in came Rahul in his spot, literally five minutes before toss time, and he left his imprint immediately with a superbly constructed 111 off 106. His unbroken 233-run stand with Virat Kohli sent Pakistan tumbling to one of their heaviest defeats. It was storylines such as these that pleased Rohit the most as he reflected on India’s Asia Cup campaign.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo