"There is a template to my batting, which I follow. Try to hold my shape," Rohit Sharma had casually uttered after a record-equalling 35-ball ton against the Sri Lankans at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore three days before Christmas last year.
While the Hitman, who infamously dons a batman kind of avatar in ODI cricket once he goes past the hundred-run mark, might have been very frank about his approach, his rising stocks as a T20I batsman comes off the back of a tried and tested template that has reaped substantial success in ODI cricket.
Known for his freakish talent and commanding chutzpah, Rohit Sharma's toddler steps in international cricket began with an unbeaten half-century in a must-win clash against South Africa in the inaugural World T20 in 2007. Another half-century never came by for a further two years.
His initial stint as an opener took some time to find success and it seemed to be shaping up well after he made a 46-ball 79* against the Aussies at Bridgetown in the 2010 World T20.
But things weren’t as rosy as Rohit would have liked it to be. A major transformation in his T20I graph came after he found his “template” in ODI cricket – a methodical madness that began with a cautious start, a calculated progress and a final flourish that swept most teams out of the contest.
Such was his insane success story in ODIs that his T20I journey is more often than not is ignored.
Before 2013, Rohit had played in 86 ODIs scoring 1,978 runs at a mediocre average of 30.43. A strike rate of 77.93 perhaps masked the bubbling monster lurking underneath his elegant exterior. The transformation to Hitman was quick, sleek and long overdue but when it did materialise few remembered the struggling Rohit that had hogged headlines for all the wrong reasons in the past.
Three double hundreds among 19 hundreds adorn his ODI career which has gone to the moon in the last few years. His T20I graph isn't too different. The initial adjustment took time and perhaps led to immense frustration but the relentless, six-hitting monster was merely laying the groundwork.
A glance at his year-wise progress in T20Is gives a glimpse about his meteoric rise.
Such has been his epic growth that in the past twelve months he has slammed three hundreds in T20Is. Overall, the Indian opener has four hundreds in the format, the most by any batsman. Colin Munro and Rohit Sharma are the only two batsmen to have more than two T20I tons.
As Rohit Sharma raced to a fourth T20I ton in the second T20I against West Indies in Lucknow, the opener went past Kohli as India’s highest T20I run-getter. He is second behind Martin Guptill, by a small margin of 68 runs, in the list of top run-getters in the format.
Rohit's surge to the top of the T20I ladder has gained momentum in the past three years. On Tuesday, Rohit left the first two balls off Oshane Thomas alone and faced a maiden to start off his innings. Getting his eye in has been a major part of Rohit's game plan.
After six dot balls in his first six balls, Rohit ended the night with 111 in his next 55 balls, smashing eight fours and seven sixes in a fairly large stadium. His half-century came off the 38th ball. In his next 23 balls, Rohit would bludgeon 60 runs, including five fours and four maximums.
The transition from Rohit to Hitman happens so quickly that by the time the opposition realise they have been hit, the run-fest would be over.
A crackdown of his year-wise position in the list of all-time run-getters in T20Is and his corresponding strike rate at the time gives a fair amount of idea about the Hitman's short format mastery.
The rapid increase in strike rate and growth in the T20I all-time run-getters chart shows the unstoppable rise of the Mumbaikar. A look at his progress to a six-hitting machine is evident when you see the jump from 2017 to 2018. This year alone Rohit has 29 sixes, third behind Colin Munro and Aaron Finch, and strikes at a career best rate of 138.64.
From 36th in the list of highest run-getters, Rohit has moved to second in a period of less than three years, this after a very ordinary 2016 where he averaged less than 30. The hundred at Lucknow was just another moment in Rohit Sharma's rise to a T20I all-time great.
(Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @imRohit_SN)
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