At the age of 24, Rohit Sharma, who had been excluded from India’s 2011 World Cup squad, could hardly have envisioned himself as the captain twelve years down the line, leading the team during the grand return of the world’s most significant cricket tournament to India. Rohit had a pretty ordinary record in his first four years of ODIs; in fact, prior to the World Cup, he had scored just 1248 runs from 57 innings at an average of just a shade above 21. In 2009, Rohit picked up a shoulder injury which forced him out of action for six months, and even though he recovered by the time the World Cup came knocking, the returns simply weren’t good enough. The Indian team instead decided to shape Virat Kohli as their No. 4, a move that paid off. India won the coveted trophy, but a sidelined Rohit licked his wounds and did not watch a single game of the World Cup.
Of course, a twist of fate awaited Rohit, and his fortunes changed in 2013 when MS Dhoni promoted him to open for India. But did you know… that despite his underwhelming numbers, Rohit was pretty much part of India’s World Cup plans in the lead-up to the tournament? Raja Venkat, one of the members of the BCCI selection panel headed by Kris Srikkanth in 2011, in a startling revelation, has disclosed that Gary Kirsten was in favour of having Rohit on board, but Dhoni’s thought process otherwise made the former India coach change his mind.
“When we sat to select the team, Rohit was very much in the scheme of things. Yashpal Sharma and I were in South Africa at that time because India was touring South Africa, and the other three selectors – Srikkanth, [Surendra] Bhave and [Narendra] Hirwani – were in Chennai. So, when we were selecting the team, numbers 1-14, every name was accepted by the panel. No. 15, we suggested the name of Rohit Sharma. Gary Kirsten also felt it was a perfect selection. But the captain wanted Piyush Chawla. So immediately, Kirsten somersaulted. He said: ‘I think that’s a better choice.’ So, that is how Rohit Sharma got left out,” Venkat told RevSportz in a freewheeling chat.
Venkat, who was part of the panel including Surendra Bhave, Narendra Hirwani and Srikkanth as the other selectors, further revealed that the decision to leave out Rohit for Chawla was a unanimous one and that they did not get a chance to convey the message to the axed India batter.
“We didn’t get a chance to talk to him, but again we were also disappointed that we couldn’t select him. But when the captain and coach wanted Piyush as the 15th member, we all accepted it. Initially we had selected the 15 which we all felt was the right one. Unfortunately, we had to make one change, and we had to give it to the captain and the coach,” Venkat said further.
“Really, really disappointed on not being the part of the WC squad… I need to move on from here, but honestly, it was a big setback,” Rohit had posted on X (formerly Twitter). But as luck would have it, Rohit had become a match-winner by the 2015 World Cup and played a pivotal part in India’s run up to the semifinal scoring 330 runs from 8 ODIs. Four years later in England, Rohit created history at the 2019 World Cup as he not only emerged as its highest scorer with 648 runs but with five centuries, also broke Kumar Sangakkara’s record for most hundreds in a single edition of a World Cup.