He offered a moving lecture about developing as an individual and a batsman, about the desire stemming from his inner self, and strongly mentioned his two back-to-back hundreds in the Ranji Trophy against Railways and Rajasthan to underscore his growing hunger for runs.
Despite that stirring narrative, there was a lingering element of suspicion because it was Rohit, someone who repeatedly failed to live up to his words in the past. However, at the less sublime surroundings of the Barabati stadium, Rohit proved he meant every word of it, producing a dogged 72 to form the foundation of an Indian victory.
The innings contained just three fours and a six, and innumerable quickly run singles and twos, whereas Rohit of a year ago would have played just the opposite before finally throwing his wicket away.
So, where did his turnaround begin? Some might attribute it to the one-day series against the West Indies in June earlier this year where he had showed a propensity to occupy the crease and battle for runs, and Mumbais circle will eagerly offer endless tales of a Sachin Tendulkar tounge-lashing post the IPL auction that drove in him the significance of right attitude and hard work. But it has to run deeper than a good series – he had a couple of successful outings in the past – or a dressing down, even if it’s from a player of the stature of Tendulkar, for a player like Rohit to mend his ways.
During that Mumbai evening, Rohit himself – perhaps inadvertently – offered a hint to the genesis of his transformation. “In West Indies, Duncan Fletcher had a talk with me, and that was reassuring. Fletcher told me that he would like to see me playing Tests in the near future,” Rohit had said.
Youngsters like Rohit need that secure feeling, a feeling of being wanted in a team set-up to graduate to the next level and establish themselves. Fletcher’s man-management abilities are quite well known from his days with the England team, and how efficiently he galvanised a young English side into an Ashes winning unit.
Distraught after a spate of injuries and omission from India’s World Cup squad, Rohit needed a safe environment around him, an atmosphere that convinces him about his place in the dressing room. Fletcher did just that, welcoming Rohit to the Indian set-up with an open mind devoid of any pre-conceived notions about his attitude and fitness.
Sometimes, a comforting hand and a few encouraging words, like Fletcher offered to Rohit, can do magic with a youngster than an iron-hand approach. This is not to say that the previous regime under Gary Kirsten didn’t care for Rohit, but his constant injury-enforced absence made it tough for Kirsten to work with him on a constant basis, and also the focus was largely on the World Cup and becoming No 1 in Tests in which Rohit somehow couldn’t fit in.
That left Rohit to find his own way, and to his credit, the Mumbai lad didn’t give up the fight. “The best way I knew was to keep scoring runs at the domestic level, and leave the rest to the selectors. Now, I know the value of occupying the crease for a long time, and I am more hungry for runs,” Rohit had said.
It’s his own desire for success along with the team management’s belief in him now drives Rohit, and Virender Sehwag too acknowledged it. “He’s very talented. Now, he’s becoming more mature, and improving with every match. It’s a very good sign for Indian cricket that youngsters are coming through at the right time,” Sehwag said.
Recently, we have seen the splendid turnaround of Virat Kohli, no longer a slave of youthful carelessness. Rohit has taken the first step, and it should make for compelling viewing to see whether he can go the distance.