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Rohit Sharma: Flashes in a Pan

SENIOR ANALYST

Are Rohit Sharma's Caribbean exploits a turnaround of fortunes or flashes in the pan?

 

It has been four years (plus 2 days, but who’s counting) since Rohit Sharma made his debut. He was, at the time, an obligatory new face that had to be brought in after India’s epic World Cup campaign in ‘07. Obviously that couldn’t be the only reason he was picked – he had a decent start in domestic cricket, including a fifty on first-class debut against New Zealand A and a match-winning innings on his List A debut (Pujara and Jadeja were the other debutants). And anyone who has seen him bat will know that there’s no way this guy can remain a mere domestic cricketer.

Following his composed, series-sealing innings against the West Indies last week, there were plenty of those perfunctory ‘coming of age’ remarks and articles about him. This is not one of them. I just decided to look at some stats and think-analyze-write about them. Just out of curiosity for how often RG Sharma seems to have got on track.

He didn’t get to bat on his debut, in a match against Ireland. And when he did, it took him a couple of innings to get to double figures. In fact, it was a classy half-century against Pakistan, in a dead rubber (which, incidentally, was Praveen Kumar‘s debut – he fittingly began his career with a maiden). Sharma’s mode of dismissal was a familiar one – caught at long-on just when he was looking like winning the game. He was the topscorer though.

That innings, though not a match winning one, was significant in another sense – it got him a fixed spot for India’s next one-day assignment: a tri-series in Australia, also featuring Sri Lanka. We know that series because India won it – we know it better because of Sachin’s performances in the finals. Sharma managed to catch the eye of many with some vital contributions, including a couple of half-centuries.

It was after this that the lean patch started. And by lean, I really mean string-thin. Much unlike the rope that the selectors were handing him. I don’t mean it was a thick rope, I mean long. Okay, I could have set that up better. Point is, the stats for all the series (seven of them) between June ’08 and June’09 are quite dismal. In the 25 innings in that period, he averaged in the low 20s with just one half-century, in a high-scoring loss to Pakistan.

It was eight months before he played his next ODI – and he scored 48 in a dead rubber against South Africa, chasing 365. It probably didn’t matter much, but there’s a tiny chance that it influenced his selection to the tour of Zimbabwe. Yeah, he probably would’ve been picked in that second-string side even if he had come off a bunch of ducks in domestic games (that is a really strange sentence). Anyway, he was a bright shining light for India in that seemingly pointless series. Bright, bright, shiny light. And by that I mean he scored a couple of hundreds (his only ones so far) and then fizzled out.

His performance in India’s successful Asia Cup campaign meant more praise, and also that he was firmly back in the general scheme of things. Until, of course, the next tournament. 20 runs in 4 innings against Sri Lanka and New Zealand, followed by 49 runs in 5 innings in South Africa pretty much sealed his fate ahead of the World Cup. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Except it isn’t. It was a really good way to end that last paragraph though, right? Anyway, it isn’t history. It’s fairly recent. And that ODI series against the West Indies? Ended last week. Definitely not history. And Sharma batted remarkably well in a series where the only consistent thing about India’s batting was its tendency to succumb to the domino effect.

So, this could be a complete turnaround and be the first series of the rest of his career, or it could be one of his many flashes in the pan. He could be RG or WG. Provides some super content to write on, either way.

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