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Rohit Sharma - The next Vinod Kambli of Indian Cricket?

Following the legacies of the batting geniuses of Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, Indian cricket seems to be sticking to its old tradition of producing some of the best batters to have ever played the game. From the days of Lala Amarnath to the Kohlis and Unmukt Chands of today, the batting talent of the country has been unquestionable and critics reckon it to be one of the prime reasons for India’s success over the years, despite having a “not so good” bowling attack.

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Among the new generation of prospective Indian batters, Rohit Sharma is one such name that promised a lot but has just not been able to deliver the goods as of now. Rohit Sharma first came into the limelight in 2006 during the U-19 Indian team’s World Cup campaign in Sri Lanka. His blistering knocks at the top of the order followed by a run of consistent performances in the domestic circuit earned him a place in the Indian squad for the Ireland and Wales tour in 2007. A year later, he featured in the triumphant Indian T20 World Cup squad. His quick fire cameos against Australia in the semifinal and Pakistan in the final drew a lot of admiration from all corners. Sharma followed this up with a couple of classy fifties in the CB Series in tough Australian conditions, including a crucial 66 runs against the mighty Aussies in the first of 3 finals in Sydney. His partnership of 109 runs with the master Sachin Tendulkar, who went on to score a decisive century, helped India to go past the Aussies and eventually clinch the series after defeating the Aussies 2-0 in the best of 3 finals.

Rohit Sharma started to be looked as the the next big thing in Indian cricket. His exquisite wrists, ability to find the gaps, capability of playing strokes all round the wicket combined with sharp reflexes helped him find a regular place in the Indian team in the shorter versions of the game. However, when the world expected him to develop further as a cricketer with time, what transpired in reality was unfortunately just the opposite. His talent is unquestionable but post 2008, to the dismay of the cricketing world, Rohit Sharma suddenly seemed to lose his consistency. He failed to notch up sufficient runs in two consecutive domestic seasons for Mumbai that cost him his place in the national side.

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With the advent of the revolutionary Indian Premier League that pundits reckon has redefined modern day cricket, Rohit Sharma did manage to make big strides in the cash-rich tournament though. He was purchased for a whopping US$750,000 by the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chargers franchise. He represented Deccan in the first three versions of IPL and later shifted to Mumbai Indians in 2011. He played a number of fabulous innings and won matches almost single handedly for the two franchises that he has represented so far. Watching him bat so well in the IPL, one felt perhaps at last Rohit Sharma has started playing like Rohit Sharma but barring IPL, he has continued to be as inconsistent as ever.

Despite not-so-good performances in the domestic arena, Rohit Sharma was lucky enough to be back in the squad for the West Indies tour in 2011. In the absence of the seniors, Rohit lived up to his expectations with a few consistent scores and was adjudged the Man-of-the-tournament. Since the next World Cup is set to be played in New Zealand and Australia, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been focusing on selecting a pack of emerging players capable of making an impact on foreign soil and providing them with sufficient matches to gear up for the 2015 World Cup. Thanks to his performances in Australia in 2007 as aforesaid, Rohit is strongly in contention for a place in the 2015 World Cup squad. He is one of the very few players who has the support of the skipper, team management and most importantly the selectors, despite repeated failures. A section of the media and ex-cricketers have questioned Rohit’s place in the squad, but Dhoni has been nonchalant.

Cricketers like Manoj Tiwari and Ajinkya Rahane were made to wait for days and months despite being highly successful in the domestic arena but the team management has been reluctant to stick with Rohit Sharma. Most of the innings he played over the last 18 months have not lasted for even 30 balls but he continues to turn up in Indian colors which is undoubtedly something that we haven’t seen earlier. When you have so many able cricketers warming your benches, you just cannot afford to give matches after matches to a gifted but non-performing cricketer. With stiff competition from emerging talents in the likes of Unmukt Chand, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara and others, it’s high time for Rohit to buck up, failing which it could land him in an even bigger existential crisis in the days to follow. We sincerely hope that he won’t disappear into oblivion like Vinod Kambli, who the Master Blaster rated as a “better batsman” than him.

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