Rohit Sharma, the hungry big scorer, is only just getting started
Rohit Sharma comes in to bat. He takes strike. The first ball is an outswinger. He narrowly misses it. The audience breathes a sigh of relief. They know that if he doesn’t get out early, he'll score big.
The next three balls follow the same route. Just when the audience begin to have a sense of doubt, he drives the fourth ball with élan, in his inimitable style. It’s a boundary.
It's now the last ball of the over. The bowler barges in and bowls a bouncer. He pulls it with utmost confidence and ease. It’s a six.
These lines could depict just about every innings that Rohit Sharma, a.k.a. “Hit Man” has played in recent times. He is a classy player, sure, but always comes with a sense of unpredictability.
Talent. That's the first word that would strike anyone's mind when they hear the name Rohit Sharma. It was the quality that got him his identity, right from his early days. It is an adjective that has been a boon as well as a bane in his career.
Every coach of Rohit's has rated him highly and touted him to the next big thing in Indian cricket. But it wasn’t all just talent.
A small town boy from Nagpur, Rohit shifted to Borivali, Mumbai, in his childhood days. His everyday routine was school, followed by an hour-long commute from Borivali to Churchgate - where he would practise at Oval Maidan.
Rohit started off as an off-spinner but slowly turned into a batsman with class written all over his style of play. His elegant flourishes with the bat earned him a reputation in the Mumbai circuit and got him a place in the probables list for the 2006 U19 World Cup.
Rohit got his first major recognition in that very tournament, where his present teammates, Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara were also present. He played every match and had a consistent run with the bat, taking India to the finals where they eventually lost to Pakistan.
The next breakthrough came in his T20I debut during the 2007 T20 World Cup. He didn’t get to bat in his first match, but contributed useful runs thereafter.
Rohit's batting prowess immediately came into the limelight and people found him to be a swashbuckling player. His useful 30 runs in the final against Pakistan were partly instrumental in India lifting the trophy.
Rohit made his ODI debut in 2007 against Ireland. This was followed by impressive knocks in the 2008 CB series, but he didn’t show much consistency at No. 5 and No. 6 and was dropped for the 2011 World Cup after a dismal SA series.
His inconsistent performances fetched him the nickname “Maggi Man”. Many of his critics felt he wasn’t doing justice to his talent.
The major breakthrough came in 2013 when was pushed higher up the order to open the innings by MS Dhoni. This proved to be a blessing as he finally found his footing, eventually scoring a double hundred against Australia at Bangalore.
That same year he made his Test debut against West Indies, after playing 108 ODIs - the most for any player. He scored an exuberant century and was adjudged the player of the match.
Since then, he has become an ODI regular and an integral part of Team India. He went on to score two more double hundreds and is the only batsman who has three to his name. He also holds the record for the highest individual ODI score of 264 against Sri Lanka in 2014.
In the IPL, Rohit was part of the trophy-winning Deccan Chargers in 2009. He was bought by the Mumbai Indians in 2011 and was made captain in the year 2013, a result of his brilliant Test debut and the gorgeous ODI double hundred against Australia. The team lifted the trophy that year as well as in ’15 and ’17.
Rohit is gifted with flexible wrists which are very VVS Laxman-esque, and can play every shot on the book with finesse. He’s got an amazing sense of timing the ball, which has rarely been seen in the sport. He gets to the ball very late, as though he’s got all the time in the world, which makes his batting look “lazily elegant”.
Despite all the early criticism, Rohit has blossomed into a terrific limited overs player - a fact reinforced by his fourth T20I century against West Indies earlier today. His hunger for big runs hasn't diminished, and he could well break many more records by the time his career is over.