Rohit Sharma’s Double Century: The ‘Hitman’ Reveals Secret Behind His Double Ton in ODIs

Manoj Narayan
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New Delhi: Time was when a double century would be the talk of town. Back in 2010, people spoke about Sachin Tendulkar’s 200 for weeks after it happened – it was an ‘I was there’ moment, something people recall with a smile, the lengths they pursued to keep themselves abreast with Tendulkar’s fortunes.

On Wednesday (December 13), Rohit Sharma scored his third double century in One-Day Internationals, against Sri Lanka in Mohali, becoming the only player to notch up as many 200s. It was his first as captain, his second against Sri Lanka, and he is now arguably the king of daddy hundreds in the format.

The buzz surrounding this achievement, however, falls well short of that Tendulkar moment. In fact, on the morning after, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone speaking of it beyond the Rohit Sharma household. It’s less than eight years since Tendulkar scored that 200 against South Africa, but in that time, double centuries have become commonplace, no longer outside the realms of possibility. Unfortunately or fortunately, Rohit is at the heart of this change in perception. 

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Six further double centuries have been scored since Tendulkar scaled the peak. Rohit himself has done it thrice, with Chris Gayle, Martin Guptill and, of course, Virender Sehwag, all scoring one each. Each employed their own methods to reach the milestone. Gayle and Guptill had their inherent power to aid their assaults, while Sehwag’s insistence on attack was always bound to help him breach the 200-mark.

But it is Rohit who has made an art of it. A common feature every time he has scaled 200 has been his pacing of the innings: slow and steady at first, all-out assault in the death. It is a template he has fine-tuned, and a look at his three big ODI knocks shows a pattern. In his unbeaten 264 against Sri Lanka in 2014, his first fifty came in 72 balls. He accelerated and breached the 100-mark at a run-a-ball, the second 50 taking just 28 balls. The next 50 came in just 23 balls, before the bringing up 200 in just 28 further deliveries. Incredibly, the 50 after that came in just 15 balls.

It was similar against Australia in 2013. The first 50 came in 71 balls, the next 50 in 43 balls, and then the gears shifted and the remaining 109 runs were scored in just 44 balls. Likewise in Mohali on Wednesday, Rohit took 72 balls for his half-century, and took a further 43 deliveries to bring up the century. Incredibly, his next 100 runs took a mere 36 deliveries as he ended unbeaten on 208, with 13 fours and 12 sixes. 

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In the death overs, he dominated bowlers to such an extent that attempted yorkers were reduced to juicy full tosses, each of which he sent away to the stands. But, as Rohit explained in his post-match press conference, it isn’t as easy as just upping the ante and hitting sixes. There is some mathematics behind it all, a constant calculation and manipulation of the field, a psychological battle to dominate the bowler.

Rohit threw light on his method. “I started off very slow because I like analysing,” he said. “I like to analyse the situation, conditions more than that because the conditions initially were not so easy and we wanted to play out those initial overs, and then see what we can do. In all the three double hundreds, it is a very similar pattern that you will see… started off slow, then picked up the pace and then in the end I accelerated.

“That is only because unless you make a mistake, you are not going to get out because you are set and you are seeing the ball well. Bowlers are trying to get away with their plans because things are not going their way. So all those things, I count, I analyse and I talk to myself about it when I am batting. I feel after you get a hundred, batting will only get easier. You have been there, took out the toughest part of the game which is the initial phase with the two new balls. You have batted that, your team is in a good position and you also have wickets in hand, so all those put together, gives you the freedom to play those shots.

“I am not someone like AB de Villiers, or Chris Gayle, or MS Dhoni for sure. I don’t have that much power. I have to use my brain to manipulate the field and I have to stick to my strength, which is to hitting through the line and playing with the field. Once you cross the three-figure mark, batting only gets easier. Unless you make a mistake, you will not get out. It can happen if you get a good ball, but eight out of 10 times you will not.”

Rohit’s belief that “batting only gets easier” after scoring a century is noteworthy, especially given that it isn’t unheard of for batsmen to lose concentration or succumb to fatigue after bringing up three figures. It is indicative of Rohit’s fitness as much as his confidence. Despite that, he advised restraint.

“Nothing is easy in cricket,” said Rohit. “Maybe when you watch it on TV it looks easier, but it is not. Trust me, when you are out in the middle, you have to use your brain and you have to time the ball. Otherwise, it is not easy. I was trying to play with the field, playing a scoop shot, trying to hit over point. Those are my strengths. It is not always that you can clear the rope easily. So that is the advantage of having five fielders inside. You can play with the field and shot selection becomes very important.”

The 200-mark may no longer make much of a buzz, but therein is the testament to Rohit. He has made it the new normal. Perhaps when he breaches the 300 – something that no longer seems outlandish – the buzz will return.