SK Elite: The Rohit Sharma Show, Episode: Perth, 2016
American late-night comedy shows enjoy massive popularity not only in America but across the globe. There’s a reason for that. These shows are so immaculately streamlined that you tend to sit through an hour of entertainment without realising you’ve been watching it for that long.
Rohit Sharma’s batting is maybe a microcosm of that. It’s beautifully streamlined, it’s easy on the eye and boy is it entertaining to watch!
In an era of the Chris Gayles, Glenn Maxwells, Hardik Pandyas and Evin Lewises, there’s an uncanny calm in watching Rohit bat. The way he eases into a drive through the covers is exemplary. It’s like those oddly-satisfying cheese-melting and cake-icing videos online that you can watch over and over again without ever getting bored.
At the end of a Rohit innings, especially those marathon ones, you're left satiated. Like you are after a five-course meal, with a broad smile on your face and contentment in your heart. Rohit bats for the romantics. He bats with elegance, style, and poise. If cricket shots were ever to walk the ramp at a fashion show, I’d make a Rohit Sharma shot my show-stopper.
1st ODI, Perth, 2016 was just another episode of the Sharma show. Building up to this game, Rohit’s last four centuries were 264, 138, 137, and 150. Perth is known for its cowboy hats, its lazy lifestyle, its pelf and the flat WACA track, in reverse order.
The WACA track is a highway. Sure the ball carries well to the keeper and there’s pace on the track, but as a batsman, if you’re set, you can bat in cruise control. Which is something Rohit did that morning at the WACA. Playing the first ball of a big-ticket series with the famous Aussie crowd clapping and getting behind Josh Hazlewood, Rohit seemed unperturbed, guided it straight to mid-on for a couple. Like he was playing the first ball of the 20th over.
When Joel Paris bowled a steep bouncer at him, he pulled out the famed Rohit Sharma pull. Easy, exquisite and elegant, that shot sent the ball 85 metres away. But unlike the Rohit of Test cricket, this was an Indian opener with immense self-belief. Self-belief that meant he didn't check his shots but instead waited for the loose ball to come, biding his time.
If you map a marathon Rohit innings, you can easily find a pattern. At the WACA, he adhered to the same pattern. He raced to 36 off 34 balls almost surreptitiously. Then he switched gears and started taking it easy. He had set the flight in motion, he knew he needed to glide for a while. In the next 29 balls, Rohit hit only one boundary and reached his fifty.
Once his 50 was up, he stepped the ante up a little but not for a moment did he risk his wicket. In the next 23 balls, he hit two towering sixes off the second-string Aussie bowlers Mitch Marsh and Maxwell while fending off any threat from the frontline bowlers.
Rohit went from 77 to 100 in 36 balls. This was the time when Steve Smith brought back Hazlewood and Faulkner to put more pressure on Sharma. But the Hitman had it all covered. He was gliding and he did exactly the same against these two, piercing gaps and picking up singles and doubles to accumulate more and more runs. 100 off 122 balls, seven fours, and three sixes.
But Rohit never scores ‘just hundreds’, he scores big-daddy hundreds. The kind of hundreds that become the identity of the game they were scored in. The kind of hundred that you’d name big burgers after. The WACA Whopper!
And thus, began the next phase of The Rohit Sharma Show, perhaps the most entertaining. He pummeled yorkers over long-on like he had seen them coming on the team bus that morning itself. This segment wasn’t all power and muscle. Every time the softer, older ball was banged in short, he delicately placed it just wide on either side of the keeper to collect invaluable boundaries. The last segment of The Rohit Sharma Show saw him race to 171 from 100 in just 41 balls. This phase also propelled India’s total to over 300 runs.
Quite often, in the shorter formats of the game, you don’t associate certain traits with openers. How often do you hear adjectives like ‘calculated’ and ‘well constructed’ being anointed to an opener’s innings. Sure, not a lot of opening batsmen nowadays deserve that anointment. But Rohit is different. He is calculated, he is stylish, and he is shrewd. He is Jimmy Kimmel with a better cover drive. And he can put up an equally good show, if not better, within his might!
Let’s hope we see one this series.