Kolkata: Herschelle Gibbs on Saturday rated Rohit Sharma ahead of his India teammate Virat Kohli and said the duo could be real match winners for the country in the days to come.
Sharma scored a blistering 109 not out and shared an undefeated 167-run stand (from 106 balls) with Gibbs (66 not out) to guide Mumbai Indians to a comfortable 27-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders in an IPL match here, which ended the home team's six-match winning run.
Having seen Sharma from close quarters in their past association with Deccan Chargers, Gibbs said Sharma was technically more sound.
Describing himself as a "fan" of Sharma, the veteran South African said: "I have seen him grow over the years. It's been five years. His cricket has definitely gone forward. Nobody questions his talent.
"Virat Kohli is another one. Definitely they have taken the cricket to another level. But as far as talent and technique is concerned, I think Rohit is a little bit better than Virat."
"The more Rohit plays these sort of innings, his temperament would get better. His self-belief would also increase. It's good for India that Rohit Sharma performs.
"If he performs consistently along with Kohli then the two of them can be match winners for India both in Tests and ODIs and in Twenty20s. It's good to see him play these sort of innings."
"I and Rohit had a good understanding, been with him a couple of years with Deccan so we got a good momentum upfront."
"My job was to support him and ensure that he does not give his wicket away. He is good enough to get 100s," Gibbs said.
Putting Sharma in the league of Gayle and Warner, he added: "Chris Gayle is showing the way as well as David Warner. But Rohit Sharma is as good as them. He is more technically sound. I am glad that he is getting runs. It was clean hitting and not slogging. I was happy to be at the other end."
Gibbs, who recovered from an injury to play his first match for the Mumbai Indians, said it was nice to start with some runs under belt.
"It's been a long time obviously. I hadn't been into too much cricket. Only the last couple days knocked a few balls. It's a nice way to start today. We lost Sachin (Tendulkar) early on but we needed a good start and Rohit and I decided to do that today."
He further said it was a good toss to win by Harbhajan Singh.
"It's good that we won the toss. It doesn't get any easier. I think we allowed our bowlers to settle down with the line and length."
With Delhi and Kolkata almost assured of playoffs berths, it would be a race for the remainder two spots, Gibbs said.
"We have to push quite hard in the next three games. It's very much like a horse race and anything can happen."
Asked about Tendulkar's stumping, he said: "I was surprised. I thought Sachin would get the benefit of the doubt. May be another day he would have been given not out."
On mystery bowler Sunil Narine he said: "I faced him only a couple of balls. You got to watch him quite closely like Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan).
"In T20, it's a fearless approach irrespective of who is bowling. You just need to go out there and pull the trigger. We did well today. We will again face him next week. We will see how it goes."