I still remember the day Rohit Sharma made his Twenty20 International debut for India against a high-flying South African side in the ICC World Twenty20 2007. And that too, in their own backyard. It was a do-or-die game for the men in blue. They had to beat the formidable South African team during a high-voltage Super 8 clash in order to make their way to the semis. After winning the toss and electing to bat first, the Indian side was reduced to 61/4, courtesy of some disciplined bowling by Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini.
The likes of Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Robin Uthappa were already back in the dugout after being dismissed cheaply, but just then, out of the ruins, rose a new hero. The 20-year-old lad from Mumbai, who had made his way into the playing 11 courtesy of an injury to Yuvraj Singh, grabbed the opportunity with both hands. His 85 run partnership with the Indian skipper MS Dhoni was instrumental in stirring the Indian ship out of precarious waters. The partnership between Sharma and Dhoni took India to 153/5 on a grassy batting strip at Kingsmead. Rohit finished with an unbeaten half-century.
Rohit’s mature innings under pressure made it very clear that this lad from Mumbai possessed enormous batting talent. He had those malleable wrists required to flick the ball over square leg. He possessed a lazy sort of elegance, for a player of his talent, the first few years of Rohit’s ODI career were studded with numerous hits and misses. Inconsistency had overpowered the right hander’s talent. A delightful knock was followed by a streak of failures. His inconsistency saw him being dropped from the national side just before the commencement of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.
Rohit’s career began taking giant strides when he was called to open the innings along with Shikhar Dhawan during the 2013 edition of the ICC Champions Trophy held in England. The Mumbaikar showcased a great sense of maturity and temperament and silenced his critics every time he went out to open the innings. His strong show with the bat ensured the team got off to a decent start. His splendid form played an instrumental role in his side’s successful campaign helping his side to lift the title. But the best phase of his career was yet to unfold.
Rohit Sharma’s career witnessed a purple patch when the Aussies toured India in 2013. Rohit scored back-to-back centuries in the series and took the likes of formidable bowlers like Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner to the cleaners. The right-hander piled up an unbeaten 141 in the 2nd ODI played in Jaipur in a winning cause chasing nearly 360 runs. His innings in Bengaluru in the last match of the series saw him scoring a double century. He finished the series with an aggregate of 491 runs from five games, including two centuries and a half-century.
There are two obvious reasons behind Rohit Sharma’s consistent run over the past couple of years. Firstly, his choice of strokes has become exemplary and secondly, he is spending a good amount of time at the crease in order to get his eye in. He can pull off the big strokes with effortless ease once he settles down.
Rohit is arguably one of the most consistent opening batters the country has ever seen. In the last four and a half years, he has amassed 4055 runs in 81 innings at an impressive average of over 56, including 12 hundreds and 22 fifties. He recently became the latest batsman to enter the 6,000 run club in ODIs during the bilateral series against the Aussies. His good form at the top also saw him being appointed as Virat Kohli’s deputy in the ODI format prior to the commencement of the series.
In the past, Rohit had shown this propensity of getting caught in the slip cordon early on in his innings. He used to consume a lot of deliveries early on and then he would try to make up for it, but fortunately, now he has this ability to build his innings. Rohit’s recent form in the limited overs format has been nothing short of extraordinary. With more than 900 runs under his belt, 2017 has undoubtedly been Rohit Sharma’s year thus far.
If there is one thing which Rohit needs to tighten-up, it is his game outside the off stump early on in his innings, and especially when the ball is moving around a bit early on like it did in the Asia Cup. One of the many dangers of a sublime form is that it produces so much confidence that you feel like going after everything. Rohit has nicked off on more than one occasion early on in Bangladesh, but given the strides he has taken as a learning cricketer, it is quite certain that he’ll come to terms with the fact, that no matter how many he has scored in the previous innings, each innings happens to be a fresh start.
A version of this post was previously published on the author’s blog.