Sitting on the sidelines, impatiently waiting for a pesky little finger injury to heal, Rohit Sharma would have been wondering when his time would come again in the blue colours of India. The right-hander would have watched, perhaps with a little trepidation, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan team up wonderfully well at the top for India and guide them to victory after victory, even fearing if his place as an opener was in jeopardy.
There really is only one way Rohit could have banished those worries without a shadow of a doubt –by scoring runs, and plenty of them, when given that opportunity on his return from injury.
What better place than the Eden Gardens – on the iconic ground's 150th anniversary -- to do just that, and then a lot.
Rohit was brutal, masterful, elegant and ruthless in his ridiculously stunning 264 from 172 balls (33x4, 9x6), putting the Sri Lanka bowlers to the sword to announce his return to the India team in smashing style. His knock of 264 made him the first batsman in the history of ODI cricket to score two double hundreds, and also the highest individual run scorer in an innings by some margin, toppling Virender Sehwag's 219 scored against the West Indies three years ago.
Playing his first game since suffering an injury to his hand in late August in Cardiff against England, Rohit, who scored more runs by himself than Sri Lanka have managed more often than not in this series, showed no signs whatsoever of being adversely affected by that enforced break, striking the ball to and over the boundary line as with consummate ease.
When you score a double century in ODI cricket, the final score will inevitably be huge won't it? And that was the case this time as well as India flew to 404 for five in their 50 overs to set Sri Lanka a ridiculously difficult target to chase.
Sri Lanka knew there was little to no chance of them even making a game of it, and that proved to be the case as they tumbled to 48 for four, losing their two most experienced batsmen – Tillakaratne Dilshan (34, 33b, 6x4) and Mahela Jayawardene (2, 5b).
Angelo Mathews (75, 68b, 9x4, 1x6) and Lahiru Thirimanne (59, 69b, 7x4, 1x6) put up a bit of a fight with a 118-run partnership, but once the skipper fell to Akshar Patel in the 29th over, it was all over bar the shouting as Sri Lanka eventually finished on 251 all out in 43.1 overs -- 153 runs short of the India's score, and 13 runs adrift of Rohit's innings -- with Dhawal Kulkarni helping himself to four lower order wickets.
Earlier, Rohit expectedly took strike at the top of the Indian order with Ajinkya Rahane, but it was not the easy-on-the-eye right-hander who caught fire immediately with Rahane hitting Nuwan Kulasekara for three boundaries in the first over the set the we-are-going-to-score-runs-for-fun tone.
The better Rahane played, the more Rohit struggled in the opening overs, with the comeback kid extremely lucky to be at the crease after just five overs as Thisara Perera dropped a dolly at third man. When he was on just four Rohit, unable to can't-find-the-middle-of-the-bat shackles, looked for that lofted drive over covers, but only managed to get a thick edge off the bowling of Shaminda Eranga, one of the players drafted in for this particular one-day international, with Perera making a complete mess of the catch.
Rahane (28, 24b, 6x4) looked on course for another big innings, such is the form he looked in, but Angelo Mathews, the wily customer with his not-quite-dollies deliveries struck the batsman's pad off an in-dipper with umpire S Ravi raising that finger even if replays suggested the ball might have gone over the stumps.
With Ambati Rayudu, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and a few more hungry-for-runs batsmen to come in, though, India did not have much to worry, even when Rayudu (8, 19b) fell without making much of an impression, bowled by a peach of a delivery from Eranga, which dipped in, but straightened after pitching to take off stump.
India needed to take stock at 59 for two in 13 overs and make sure no more quick wickets were given, and Rohit and Kohli went about doing just that, putting on a wonderful 202-run partnership in a mere 25.5 overs. The duo struggled to milk the singles and twos in the early part of the partnership, but the more balls they faced the more comfortable they looked, and the longer the Sri Lanka went wicketless after those two early strikes, the more ominous the signs were.
The home side were struggling a little on 98 for two in 22 overs, before slowly finding their groove, and hitting those six and four-hitting levels that we come to expect from them in every game once the batting Powerplay came into play in over number 30.
While Sri Lanka have struggled, and then some, in these five overs, India have thrived with both the bat and ball, and this time was no exception as the tonking began in earnest from that first Powerplay over, with Rohit thumping Kulasekara for a couple of fours and a six.
A total of 57 runs came in that five-over spell for India without losing a wicket, with Rohit zooming to his hundred, and the momentum only continued from there as the home side raced to 253 for two in 38 overs.
Kohli (66, 64b, 6x4), after reaching his half-century, was run out in the 39th over, with Suresh Raina (11, 5b, 1x4, 1x6), clearly sent in to try and smash every ball to if-that-was-possible increase the momentum, also falling soon after with the score on 276.
Rohit, with a second double hundred now in sight, continued his merry way, with Robin Uthappa (16, 16b), desperate to make an impression, giving him company at the other end, just paddling the ball for singles and giving the main man the strike.
India's batsman extraordinaire got to that magical 200-run figure with a beautiful boundary through the offside, before being dropped soon after by Seekkuge Prasanna. Rohit would make Sri Lanka pay for that drop, hitting a few more boundaries, and crossing Sehwag's world record score of 219 with a massive pump over long-off to soar India to an amazing score, while crossing that 250-mark as well.
Sri Lanka barely mustered up a reply, not even able to cross Rohit's world record score, allowing India to take a 4-0 lead in the five-match series.