Rohit Sharma : The shining knight of the shorter form

Rohit Sharma : The shining knight of the shorter form

During the 1st match of the recent 5-match India- Australia ODI series , there was an interesting discussion on air between Harsha Bhogle and Damien Martyn. As Rohit Sharma was pummeling the Australian bowlers with ease, Harsha praised one of the shots that the Indian batsman played and said, “There is a lazy elegance about him.” After saying so, he countered his own statement by saying, “Why are the words ‘lazy elegance’ always associated with batsmen like Rohit? Isn’t that a bit unfair?” Martyn concurred to his views and stated that batsmen like Rohit have their graceful style which is often mistaken as laziness; especially when they get out cheaply. Thankfully, in that match Rohit didn’t get out cheaply; scoring an outstanding 171 not out. However, there have been sever instances in the past where Rohit Sharma, whenever he gets out cheaply, has been unfairly criticized for being brash, careless and outright lazy. People fail to see the talent he possesses and want him to succeed at all times. In fact, the case of Rohit Sharma has been quite intriguing over the years. The Indian public, for some reason, loves to hate him. Many claim that he is the captain’s favourite. Some say that he is unduly favoured by the selectors. The criticisms just seem to pile on.


However, time and again, Sharma makes them eat their words and shows them that he belongs to this stage. And in the first two matches of the India-Australia ODI series, he showed us yet again why he is such a master when it comes to the shorter format. Oozing confidence and timing the ball with some regal elegance, Sharma went on his way to score two back-to-back superlative centuries. His unbeaten 171 at Perth and chanceless 124 at Brisbane were innings of very high quality; lacedwith some sublime strokes to the boundary and some outrageous hits over them. The Australian public too seemed to be in awe of Rohit’s extraordinary batting skills and applauded him with great gusto. They especially seemed to relish the way Rohit seemed to have enough time for every delivery he faced. Indeed, those two innings were the perfect examples of the talent that is imbedded in Sharma and what he can do with it if he spends some time at the crease. The relative ease with which he spanked the fast Australian bowlers all around the park and the astounding range of shots he displayed was simply breathtaking to watch. It was truly a batting exhibition of the highest quality.


It isn’t that these were the only two good innings that Rohit has played of late. From the last three years or so, the talented player has really come of age. A look at some numbers would, perhaps, shed more light on this. It was at the beginning of 2013 that Rohit was given another opportunity to open the innings in ODIs after being unsuccessful in a similar stint a few years prior to it. This move completely transformed his fortunes. From 2013 onwards, Rohit has played 61 ODI matches with close to 3000 runs at an average of 55 and a strike rate of 89. Moreover, he has also slammed 8 hundreds and 15 half-centuries in this peri- od with a highest of that mammoth 264 against Sri Lanka in 2014. Those are very impressive numbers indeed. In fact, in his last 21 innings alone, Rohit has scored 6 centuries and is looking set for many more to come. Another point worth noting is that as an opener, Rohit’s average stands at around 52. The only other current ODI opener with an average of over 50 is Hashim Amla of South Africa who leads the table with an average of 53. Sachin Tendulkar, the master from India, is third on the list with an average of 48.29 as an ODI opener. However, he had maintained that average over a staggering 340 ODI innings. Nevertheless, this clearly shows that Rohit stands tall among the finest ODI players of this era and it is time that people acknowledged him for that. A look at his home and away numbers would further bolster this notion. Since the start of 2013, Rohit has made 1109 runs in home conditions with a stunning average of 74.62 and an awesome strike rate of 108.


Even whilst playing in away conditions Rohit has garnered some splendid numbers: 1737 runs in 42 matches with an average of 47; including 4 hundreds and 11 fifties. Another aspect of his that is worth mentioning is the fact that Rohit is now famed to get ‘daddy hundreds’. 264,209, 171*, 150, 141*: these are all the big ODI hundreds that Rohit has got; clearly showing that when he gets in, he really gets going. He has this unique ability to bat deep into the innings and make the most of his form on that particular day. In fact, of his last eight hundreds, seven have been 135-plus. He now stands in an elite group of batsmen having 7 or more 135 plus scores in their kitty. Only Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are the other ones in the list. While Rohit has been excelling in T20s as well – his spectacular exploits in the IPL, and his recent 106 against South Africa in Dharamsala in the second of the 3-match T20 series between the two teams, being good cases in point – he really seems to have taken a special liking to ODIs. The past few years have shown us that Rohit has slowly mastered the art of batting in an ODI. He begins his innings slowly; usually striking at around 60 in the first ten overs. He then picks up pace in the middle overs where his strike rate touches to about 80. And, if he lasts till the ending overs, Rohit goes berserk; scoring at 11 an over without any hassles. His strike rate during the last seven overs since 2013 has been an astounding 254. This tells us that Rohit can more than make up for the time he spends at the crease towards the end. Rohit clearly is making his bat do the talking now. And in the years to come will, hopefully, shine even brightly.


There is something soothing about Rohit Sharma’s batting. The style, the elegance, the grace, the subtlety; these are traits that are not often found in batsmen over the world. In fact, in this age of slam-bang T20 cricket, more batsmen are prone to going bonkers right from the word go. To find someone like Rohit playing with such finesse even in the shorter format of the game is indeed quite pleasing to the eyes. When Rohit is at the crease and in full flow, he can make batting look so easy; even on the most difficult of tracks. A good case in point would be his 150 against South Africa at Kanpur in October last year in the 5-match ODI series between the two teams. While the other Indian batsmen fumbled on chasing a target of 304, Sharma, with his poise and panache, scored a magnificent century. That innings was not an aberration. On several occasions he has showed that he can bat with comfort on any pitch in the world. Last year, Rohit had scored another spectacular hundred (138) against Australia at the MCG during a Tri-series match. It was another of those instances where Rohit excelled effortlessly while the others buckled down. Ex-Australian captain Ian Chappell, after that innings, was all praises for the star Indian batsman.

“Rohit has been renowned in equal parts for his sublime skill, breathtaking shots played with exquisite timing, and a tendency towards laziness and a frustrating ability to gift his wicket to the opposition. In constructing his foundation-building century at the MCG, Rohit harnessed those first two traits and dismissed the latter two with a determination not seen from him before,” Chappell wrote in a cricket specific website and further added, “Throughout his excellent innings, I was reminded of the discipline displayed by Aravinda de Silva in the 1996 World Cup final. Aravinda scored a century of class and determination to help his team win the trophy, and although he denied himself any expansive shots, he still scored at a run rate near 90. It was one of the great innings of self-restraint played by a batsman who could be extravagant, bordering on reckless at times.”

These words fully justify the great qualities that Rohit has. One wonders then that why he gets flayed so regularly by the Indian public. Perhaps they feel Rohit doesn’t do enough justice to his talents. Perhaps they get disappointed on seeing him display lazy footwork against part-time bowlers on some occasions. Perhaps they feel that Rohit has it in him to be the greatest ODI batsman and is not surging towards that goal, while his teammate Virat Kohli is.


One has to realize that Rohit is still quite young. At just 28 years of age, Rohit has already scored close to 5000 ODI runs with 10 hundreds and 27 half-centuries. He is in peak form currently and is evolving as a better batsman with every game he plays. Lest one forgets, Sachin too took some time to get in the mould of a great batsman. Rohit has several years ahead of him if he remains level- headed. With the World T20 beckoning and several other ODI tournaments to look forward to in the near future, Rohit can truly excel in the coming days. He can be the guiding star of his inexperienced ODI and T20 team and can lead them to much glory. What he needs is more support from the public at home rather than the constant brickbats he receives. Many cricketers from around the globe have gone on record to say that they are envious of the talent that Rohit Sharma has. His timing and his style are often compared to greats like David Gower and Mark Waugh. Thus, Rohit Sharma should be cherished. He is a shining knight of the shorter format of the game. He should be supported and nurtured until he blossoms completely. If Rohit can continue in the same vein, then he might very well be known as one of the modern greats of the shorter form of the game in a very short span of time. Knowing Rohit, he wouldn’t be too perturbed about all this. Even as you read this, he might be silkily carving the ball through the covers with amazing suaveness and you might, yet again, be falling in awe of him. Yes, Rohit Sharma should be cherished.

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