Team India have been brilliant in the 2023 ODI World Cup so far. At the time of writing this piece, they were the only unbeaten side in the competition. They began their campaign with a six-wicket win over Australia in Chennai. Subsequently, they went on to register impressive wins over Afghanistan (8 wickets), Pakistan (7 wickets) and Bangladesh (7 wickets). The Men in Blue were expected to face a tough challenge against New Zealand in Dharamsala, a team they hadn’t defeated in any ICC event since 2003. India did have their nervous moments but hung on to register a four-wicket win over the Kiwis.
There have been a number of brilliant performances from Indian players, which have resulted in the Men in Blue finding themselves in a dominant position. Senior batter Virat Kohli has amassed 354 runs at an average of 88.50 and a strike rate of 88.50, with one hundred and three fifties. Among bowlers, pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah has claimed 14 wickets at an average of 15.07, while Mohammed Shami has added 9 wickets to his tally in just 2 matches. The left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav has snared 10 at an average of 26.10. Ravindra Jadeja (8) and Mohammed Siraj (6) six have also chipped in.
The “Hitman” factor in India’s dominance
While all the above-mentioned Indian players deserve credit for their efforts, one man must get special praise for his performances and his approach. And that is none other than Indian captain Rohit Sharma. The opening batter has 398 runs to his name from six innings at an average of 66.33 with one hundred and two fifties. After beginning with a duck against Australia, he clobbered 131 off 84 balls against Afghanistan in Delhi and has followed it up with scores of 86, 48, 46 and 87 against Pakistan, Bangladesh, New Zealand and England, respectively. What stands out about Rohit’s batting efforts in the World Cup so far is his strike rate of 119.16.
There are two ways to look at Rohit’s performances in the 2023 World Cup. One could be a critical approach, stating that he has not converted all his starts into big scores, particularly in the two matches against Bangladesh and New Zealand, where he was dismissed in the 40s. It can also be stated that he has been taking way too many risks and has had to pay the price with his wicket. If someone wants to be really harsh, they can argue that Rohit missed out on a hundred that was there for the taking in the game against Pakistan in Ahmedabad.
There is another side to the coin as well, though. Rohit’s batting approach can be seen as “selfless” and completely dedicated to the team’s cause. He is coming in every match and taking on the bowling from the word go. Even after getting his eye in and spending decent time at the crease, he is not changing his attacking approach and is continuing to attack the bowling, not worrying about his fifty or his hundred. Rohit has admitted during recent media interactions that, as captain and opener, it is his responsibility to get the team off to a flying start. To his credit, he has been walking the talk.
Easing the path for Kohli and co.
While Rohit himself might not have got the big scores in recent matches, his quick-fire knocks have had a big impact on the team’s fortunes. With the captain scoring at a brisk pace, it has eased the path for the likes of Virat Kohli and KL Rahul, who have been able to take their time to get their eye in, not having to worry about the net run rate. With different batters playing different roles, Team India have been able to balance attack and defense in a fine manner in the 2023 World Cup so far.
If we dissect Rohit’s impactful batting performances in the World Cup till now, he hammered 131 off 84 balls against Afghanistan, smashing 16 fours and five sixes. He dominated the opening partnership of 156 with Ishan Kishan, who contributed a run-a-ball 47. When Rohit was dismissed in India’s chase of 273, the Men in Blue had raced away to 205 in 25.4 overs. Kohli (55* off 56) and Shreyas Iyer (25* off 23) scored at around a run-a-ball, but Rohit’s blitz ensured India won with 15 overs to spare.
Against Pakistan, India were chasing 192. Such totals can sometimes be tricky, especially if the opposition goes on the defensive, thinking they don’t need to go all out. Shubman Gill perished cheaply for 16, but Rohit ensured the door was shut on Pakistan, clobbering six fours and as many sixes in his wonderful knock. While Kohli fell for 16, the captain’s assault at the start allowed Shreyas to take his time, and he returned unbeaten on 53 off 62 balls. Similarly, his 40s against Bangladesh and New Zealand also gave the desired kick-starts to the team. His best innings came against England. The Indian team was in trouble of getting dismissed below 200 runs, but the veteran amassed a patient 87 runs off 101 balls to take India to 229 runs.
Aggressive, not reckless – the challenge for Rohit
So far, so good. Rohit’s aggressive starts have pushed India towards important wins. But the captain’s approach is fraught with danger. Indians would hope it does not happen, but in case he perishes cheaply in a couple of games while trying to go after the bowling, the same approach will be questioned. He will be asked for accountability as the leader of the ship.
The good part about Rohit’s attitude towards batting in this World Cup is that he is clear in his head what he wants to do. More significantly, he has translated that thought process into significant performances. The challenge for Rohit ahead will be to strike a fine balance between aggression and recklessness. If he manages to stay in that positive zone without losing his composure while attempting to go berserk, he should be fine. So should India.