If there is a batsman more frustratingly delightful to watch in contemporary cricket than Rohit Sharma then he has not yet hit the high notes of the Mumbaikar. The first – and so far only – batsman with two double-centuries in One-Day Internationals, Rohit is one of only five men in the game’s history to have made hundreds in their first two Test matches. His lazy flair and natural stroke-making abilities, however, tell half the story of Rohit’s nine-year international career, where he has often been criticised for not always converting starts into more meaningful performances.
Not long after playing some clean knocks in his first year in international cricket at the age of 21, Rohit fell off the radar. Now India’s established opener in limited-overs cricket, his career was revived because he made the most of his promotion to the top of the order in January 2013.
Brought in for the fourth ODI against England, Rohit, having opened only thrice till then, responded with 83 while opening as India recorded a successful chase and wrapped up the series in Mohali. It triggered a golden phase that has served India well so far, having given them the Champions Trophy title in 2013, a final finish in the 2014 World T20 and a semifinal place in the 2015 World Cup. With five ODI centuries as an opener, Rohit has averaged above 50 for three consecutive years, something he achieved just once in his first six years.
His second avatar has justified the long rope the selectors had given him despite his consistent dalliance with inconsistency, and nothing captured it better than his 173-ball 264 – the highest individual score in ODIs – against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens last November.
Virat Kohli, who was leading India in that series against Sri Lanka, called him India’s “X-Factor” on his comeback after an injury layoff, and Rohit proved him right. He hit 33 fours and nine sixes, but more importantly the innings, in many ways, proved why critics had been asking Rohit to give himself more time in the middle instead of impatiently throwing away his wicket.
Rohit’s rediscovered self-confidence has also a lot to do with the way he has been handled by Mumbai Indians since 2013.
Past IPL performances
A key part of the erstwhile Deccan Chargers that won the Indian Premier League in South Africa in 2009, Rohit was bought by Mumbai for $US2m from their available purse of $US4.5m in the 2011 auctions. But, barring an unbeaten 109 in a convincing win against Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012, there was little to write home about Rohit’s association with the franchise before things changed in the middle of 2013.
Replacing an out of form Ricky Ponting as the captain after the sixth match, his coiled up energy suddenly translated into his becoming a natural leader in high-pressure games. He empowered his resources and maximised their output, as that year Mumbai became the second team after Chennai Super Kings to complete the double of IPL and Champions League Twenty20 titles.
The transformation resulted in Rohit becoming the second highest run-getter in IPL history, behind only Suresh Raina.
Rohit’s 137 against Bangladesh in the World Cup quarterfinal was a quality knock under pressure, but that apart he did not really set the stage alight, finishing with 330 runs in eight games.
What makes him dangerous?
In a league game in 2009, Chargers needed 21 runs in the final over against Kolkata, and Rohit blitzed two fours and two sixes off Mashrafe Mortaza to seal the deal off the final ball of the game. It’s this very ability to change matches with a few good hits that makes Rohit dangerous.