Rohit Sharma’s fantastic knock of 83 helped India seal the series in the fourth One-Day International (ODI) against England at Mohali. It was a meritorious innings because he was thrust into a new role and he had to bat in tricky conditions. Coming into the game at the back of six consecutive single digit scores in ODIs, the pressure was on Rohit. The knock exemplified his class, which has never been in doubt, but what has been most frustrating about him is lack of consistency at the highest level. He has simply not lived up to expectations.
For years, Rohit has been spoken of as a rare talent who makes batting look ridiculously easy. There is a bit of lazy elegance when he essays strokes; he has ample time to play a ball – the hallmark of a great players.
What separates Rohit from most other Indian batsmen is his ability to deal with the short, rising ball. Mahendra Singh Dhoni said, “We all felt he is someone who can be a really good opener in the sense he cuts and pulls really well.”
Rohit has opened the batting for India in ODIs in the past, but the Mohali ODI could be the turning point in his career. Comparisons have popped up with Sachin Tendulkar shift from the middle-order to an opener in ODIs, after which the maestro became has been the most prolific batsman in the history of ODIs.
Tendulkar opened the batting for the first time in his 70th ODI. Below are Tendulkar’s stats before his first stint at the top – against New Zealand at Auckland in 1994:
Here are Rohit’s statistics prior to the Mohali ODI against England:
What stats don’t reveal
Coincidentally, Tendulkar scored 82 in his first innings as an opener in ODIs – a run short of Rohit’s 83. Some might say that there isn’t much to choose at first glance at that table – particularly when you consider the similar averages. But, statistics do not tell the whole story. By the time Tendulkar opened the batting for the first time, he was established in the Indian ranks, though he was just 20 years old. He had shown the tenacity to succeed at the highest level and his spot in the side was unquestionable. In contrast, Rohit is yet cement his spot and prove that he has the temperament to succeed in international cricket.
In the aftermath of the fourth ODI, commentators and analysts had a number of interesting observations about Rohit’s game. One of them pointed out that shot selection has been a problem with Rohit. Players who are phenomenally talented often tend to make the mistake of going too far while playing a shot. Backing their talent, they might try something different – only to throw their wicket away. Another expert said that when players with lazy elegance get out it seems as if they threw their wickets away. That, however, may be perception than reality.
With this knock Rohit showed that he can apply himself and curb his natural instincts to attack. He took his time to get to a half-century and only then started taking the attack to the bowlers. The six he hit off James Tredwell showed how effortlessly he could tackle the spinners. One could sense the determination to succeed and it was evident by his expression of disappointment on getting out.
There have been moments in the past when it looked like he had arrived, only to disappoint later. The Indian think-tank would hope their faith pays off this time and the precocious talent lives up to expectations.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site's YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_
First Published: January 25, 2013, 9:10 am