How Rohit Sharma turned into an ODI monster
Rohit Sharma was seen dominating the batting charts in the recently-concluded edition of the World Cup. For Indian fans, it was an absolute delight to watch Rohit going after the bowlers; he made batting look ridiculously easy.
His hundred against South Africa at Southampton kept India afloat even as wickets kept tumbling at the other end. The skies overhead were murky. The batting strip wasn't a belter either. In the simplest of terms, it wasn't an ideal day for batting.
The likes of Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris were spitting venom. After a few early wobbles, Rohit decided to knuckle down. He, along with KL Rahul, steadied the ship and kept the scoreboard moving.
During the game against Pakistan, the 31-year-old was at his imperious best. A scintillating 140 off just 113 deliveries helped his side post a formidable 336-run total at Old Trafford in Manchester. The bowlers had a hard time as Rohit kept batting tirelessly.
With 648 runs in nine matches, he was the tournament's leading run-getter. He also became the first batsman to score five centuries in a single edition of the World Cup.
Rohit showcased a lot of promise as a 20-year-old. He played his first ever T20I innings against a high-flying South African side in the 2007 edition of the ICC World T20. Batting at five, he stitched a crucial partnership with MS Dhoni to get his side to a respectable total.
All of the strokes that Rohit played were conventional. The lad from Maharashtra kept milking the singles to keep the scoreboard ticking. He was calm and composed and didn't try to overhit the ball.
After his batting heroics, he showcased his fielding prowess too by pulling off a memorable run out to get rid of Justin Kemp.
Rohit's talent was never in question. Those who saw him bat back then knew that this lad was tailor-made for the game's biggest stage. But the beginning was tough.
Rohit struggled to perform consistently as a middle-order batsman. Almost every good innings was followed by a string of low scores. Consequently, he was dropped from the side.
Rise as an opener
Rohit was asked to share the opening duties with Shikhar Dhawan during the 2013 edition of the Champions Trophy in England. In five matches Rohit scored 177 runs (including a couple of fifties), signalling that he was ready to welcome the promotion with open arms.
Shikhar Dhawan kept going all guns blazing at the other end and Rohit was happy to knock the ball around. These two men gave India solid starts throughout the tournament, and the team eventually ended up getting their hands on the silverware.
The ODI series against the Aussies in October 2013 brought out the best in Rohit. In the second ODI, he and Virat Kohli spearheaded a miraculous run chase.
Chasing 360-odd in 50 overs for an unlikely victory, both these men scored centuries and helped India reach the target in the 44th over. Rohit remained unbeaten on 141, but his best was yet to come.
In the seventh and final ODI of the series, Rohit once again took the Aussie bowlers to the cleaners. He scored a double century in the match (209) and ended the series with an aggregate of 491 runs.
How has he become so consistent?
Of late, Rohit has transformed into an ODI monster. He is arguably the best opening batsman (ODI) in world cricket right now, with seemingly a lot more success to come.
With three double hundreds in his career thus far, Rohit is the undisputed king of ODI double hundreds. But have you ever wondered what makes him such a formidable force in limited-overs cricket?
Rohit's strength lies in his ability to play the waiting game. He spends a lot of time in the middle in order to get his eye in.
Those who follow Rohit closely would have noticed that he is willing to play a few dot deliveries early on in his innings. He doesn't go bang-bang right from the word go. But once he gets set, he scores freely by unleashing a wide range of strokes.
Take the 208 he scored against Sri Lanka in Mohali (2017) for example. The first hundred came in 115 balls while the next 108 runs came off just 38 balls. He smashed 13 fours and 12 sixes in the innings.
This has been a striking feature of Rohit's batting exploits of late. Every single time he goes on to score a hundred, he tries to convert it into a 'daddy hundred'.
Ironing out the chinks for the future
Some might disagree, but Rohit does look vulnerable early on in his innings. He has a habit of throwing his bat at deliveries outside the off-stump, and has been caught in the slip cordon on a number of occasions.
But the good thing is that despite his limitations, he seems to have got better with time. At present, he is getting more and more assured with each passing game. Above all else, he seems to have made peace with the fact that no matter how many he may have scored in the previous innings, each innings is a fresh start.
That bodes well for his short-term as well as long-term future. Rohit already an ODI great, but he is on the cusp of attaining legendary status. If he continues to be as consistent as he has been lately, there's no reason why he won't get there.
Published 17 Aug 2019, 01:57 IST