Rohit Sharma tops the batting average charts as an opener in ODIs © Getty Images
Rohit Sharma tops the batting average charts as an opener in ODIs © Getty Images

Answer a simple question, to begin with: who is the greatest opener to grace ODIs? A majority will raise hands and reply Sachin Tendulkar. When we talk of sheer volume, the answer is fair enough. Tendulkar has opened in a massive 340 innings and amassed 15,310 runs. It is unlikely that another ODI opener will topple the tally in the near future.

Another sizeable mass will go with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist or Sanath Jayasuriya. These men did not rule the charts when it came to averages but they ended with phenomenal strike rates. In fact, Sehwag’s 7,518 runs as an opener came at a decent 36.50 but a strike rate reads 104.72. Gilchrist, too, scored at an identical average and struck at over 98.

Then there were the Sourav Gangulys, Saeed Anwars and Mark Waughs — men who batted with grace, held one end, controlled the innings and went ballistic in the death. There were also Dennis Amiss and Desmond Haynes, both of whom held all sorts of ODI batting records during their careers.

However, ODIs have changed over the years. If we draw a balance of impact and consistency, Tendulkar eclipses most.

But what about the modern greats?

Hashim Amla has set a new benchmark and is considered to be one of the finest batters in this format. Then there are the likes of Martin Guptill, David Warner, Chris Gayle, Shikhar Dhawan, Alex Hales and Quinton de Kock. These men score more often than not, and are destructive when they do so.

Crunch some numbers before you create or share the next Rohit Sharma troll meme.

Most successful ODI openers in 2010s (minimum qualification 500 runs)

Batsmen M R Ave HS SR 100s 50s Win %
Hashim Amla 131 6,333 51.07 159 90.1 24 27 64.6
Tillakaratne Dilshan 154 6,290 44.92 161* 87.1 17 31 52.03
Martin Guptill 115 4,564 44.74 237* 89.1 11 25 56.4
David Warner 91 4,143 47.07 179 96.8 14 16 62.07
Rohit Sharma 83 4,066 54.21 264 90.0 12 22 60.49

 Teams and players average scoring rate per 100 balls in 2010s

Teams Team SR Star Openers SR
South Africa 94.3 Hashim Amla 90.1
Sri Lanka 88.2 Tillakaratne Dilshan 87.1
New Zealand 92.5 Martin Guptill 89.1
Australia 92.5 David Warner 96.8
India 93.0 Rohit Sharma 90.0

If we compare the charts, only Warner has managed to score at a strike rate superior to their respective teams’. The point to be noted here is Rohit averages 54 as opener compared to Warner’s 47.

The daddy of daddy hundreds in 2010s

Batsmen 100s R Ave SR
Hashim Amla 24 2,899 144.95 100.5
Tillakaratne Dilshan 17 2,012 223.55 97.2
Martin Guptill 11 1,465 293.00 103.8
David Warner 14 1,903 135.92 108.4
Rohit Sharma 12 1,810 226.25 112.2

But what about the innings where the batsmen go past a hundred? Once he gets to that hundred, Rohit has been the most dangerous of the quintet. Out of his 12 ODI hundreds as an opener, he has converted 2 of them into doubles. In fact, he is the only batsmen with 2 ODI double tons.

There was a time when 264 used to be a match-winning team total. Whatever the bowling attack or whatever the surface, Rohit got that many at Eden Gardens in an innings, all by himself.

Rohit got a slow start to his ODI career. If anything, he was lucky to be backed by the management, and then skipper MS Dhoni despite his prolonged poor form. However, things took a new shape once he was promoted to the top. The average that languished in early 30s in the first half of his career shot up to mid-40s. Even in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia, Rohit was the top run-getter as India sealed the series 4-1.

Another hallmark about Rohit is the fact that he raises his game against the best opponent. Whereas no opener has crossed the 800-mark against world champions Australia in this decade, Rohit has amassed 1,400 runs at 93.33 with 6 centuries.

However, against the other strong sides of this era, South Africa, Rohit’s average as opener drops to 30.61. But such baffling has been his career and approach.

But Rohit tops this illustrious list

Best batting average as opener in ODIs (minimum of 500 runs)

Batsmen M R Ave HS SR 100s 50s Win %
Rohit Sharma 83 4,066 54.21 264 90.0 12 22 60.49
Hashim Amla 151 7,156 50.75 159 89.4 25 33 64.14
Glenn Turner 29 1,197 49.87 171* 68.6 3 7 66.67
Sachin Tendulkar 340 15,301 48.29 200* 88.1 45 75 53.87
Dennis Amiss 18 859 47.72 137 72.5 4 1 62.50

Put a 500-run cut-off, and Rohit has the best average among all openers in ODI history. It is fair to say that only one batsman who challenges his supremacy in this list is Tendulkar, though Amla has done a commendable job as well. During Tendulkar’s tenure as an opener (1994-2012), India scored 85.7 every 100 balls and Tendulkar did more than that. This is a telling fact. The length of Tendulkar’s career also makes a difference. Not to forget, Tendulkar opened the batting against the red ball in seaming conditions, which no cricketer has done in the current era.

Virat Kohli has redefined the way one approaches batting in limited-overs cricket, however, a chunk of credit for India’s rise to the No. 1 spot in ICC ODI Rankings goes to Rohit.