Rohit Sharma’s ODI career – spanning over 10 years – can be split into two phases. Since his debut in 2007 up to December 30, 2012, the right-hander scored 1978 runs in 86 matches at an average of 30.43.
On most occasions, he flattered to deceive and his much-vaunted ‘talent’ became an object of public ridicule. The 5-match series against Sri Lanka in 2012 was his nadir as he managed only 17 runs in 5 matches. Aspersions were then cast not only over his talent but also on the acumen of the selectors and then captain – MS Dhoni – for rendering him an unusually long rope despite repeated failures.
The second phase of Rohit’s career began on January 23, 2013, when he was asked to open the innings against England in the 4th ODI of the series. He crafted a sumptuous 83 and led India to a fine victory. Since then there has been no looking back. Since then, Rohit has thumped 4439 runs at an average of 58.40, with 14 tons in 87 matches. In the process, he has hoovered up a string of sterling records, none more significant than being the only batsman to bludgeon 3 ODI double tons.
While Virat Kohli continues to be India’s premier ODI batsman, having already scored 32 tons in the format, Rohit now isn’t too far behind. Since January 1, 2013, no batsman in the world has scored more runs than him in ODIs barring Kohli. Indeed, Kohli and Rohit are at the top of the tree and are at the heart of India’s recent golden run in the ODIs.
So how did this transformation in Rohit’s fortunes come about? His promotion as an opener is but one, albeit important, factor. Sourav Ganguly has often been quoted as saying that No. 1 to 3 are the best positions to bat in ODIs as the batsman gets to play a lot of balls and has greater opportunities to rack up huge scores. Some of the greatest batsmen in the ODIs attained success after their elevation as openers. Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya started their ODI careers as middle-order batsmen but tasted greater glory after their positional ascension.
However, not all opening batsmen have been as prolific. It is to Rohit’s credit that he has made the most of the opportunity that came his way. Over the years, there has been a marked amelioration in his batting technique. No longer does he plays across the line early in his innings or throw his wicket away after getting starts. The fact that he has 3 double tons under his belt speaks volumes about his hunger and skill to compile mammoth innings.
Another notable feature is the tempo with which he builds his innings. He now prefers to take his time at the outset before going on the rampage. No other batsman at present cuts loose with as much menace as he does after reaching a hundred. Against Sri Lanka at Mohali, after completing his 16th ODI ton, Rohit took just 36 balls to hammer his next 100 runs.
Kohli once explained why he hasn’t been able to slam double ton while Rohit has done it multiple times: “I cannot run amok like he does after reaching hundred.”
The fact that he has a wide range of shots in his repertoire – from pull to cover drive – surely helps. By his own admission, he doesn’t have the brute force of a Dhoni or a Gayle but his sumptuous timing – he seems to caress the ball rather than canning it – and the extra second he has while playing his shots enable him to smack monumental sixes with astounding ease and elan.
One can cavil that he has mostly scored on flat decks but there’s no gainsaying the fact that most of the pitches in ODIs around the world are now virtual shirtfronts. Also, Rohit has batted well in places such as Australia and England with averages of 51.95 and 53.30 there respectively. The only country in which he has come a cropper is South Africa. He may still not be the best batsman in the world in ODIs, but certainly the most dangerous when conditions are to his liking.
To sum up, if Rohit Sharma keeps pushing the envelope and sustains his good run for next few years, he would finish as one of the greatest limited-overs batsmen of all time.
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