Rohit Sharma is unmistakably maturing into match-winning batsman

Rohit Sharma… averaging over 109 in his last seven ODI innings! © AFP

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Rohit Sharma’s knock of 72 in the first One-Day International (ODI) against the West Indies guided India through initial rough weather and took them to the brink of victory. The game at Cuttack would be remembered for the way numbers ten and eleven, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav respectively, finished the game, but it was the Mumbai batsman who did the hard work and almost saw it through. Coming into the side with some good scores in the Ranji Trophy, Rohit is turning into a dependable anchor, looking much more matured and composed in the middle.

 

Rohit’s outing in Cuttack on Monday wasn’t the first time he has played a match-winning knock while chasing. Earlier this year, when India toured the West Indies, he had a fantastic time as he won the “Man of the series” award in the ODI series. In the first ODI of that series, his 68 not out guided India home after they lost wickets at regular intervals during the first half of their chase.

 

However his real masterpiece came in the third ODI at North Sound, Antigua. That knock was very similar to the one he played at the Barabati Stadium, the only difference being that he stayed in the middle till India crossed the line.

 

Chasing 226, India were reduced to 92 for 6 in the 23nd over with Rohit being the only recognised batsman in the middle. Harbhajan Singh joined him and the two struck a match winning partnership. The off-spinner lost his wicket when India were more than 40 runs shy off the target, but Rohit ensured India achieved it without further hiccups.

 

That knock just highlighted his potential and assured the team management that they could rely on him in tough situations. His latest performance has just reaffirmed that faith as he seems to have moved past his initial days of unfulfilled promise to blossom into an asset to the Indian team.

 

There was never a question on Rohit’s talent, but one always felt that he would get a bit too casual at times. Recent performances suggest that he has done away with that casual attitude as he applies himself in the middle at all times. One can see that he has curbed his natural instincts of playing attacking strokes whenever India have lost wickets in a heap and needed to bring stability to their innings. He has cut out those casual strokes that proved fatal early in his career.

 

In the two knocks in question (86 not out at Antigua and 72 at Cuttack), he has shown good temperament while batting with the lower order as he has rotated strike and kept the scoreboard ticking. This hasn’t allowed the bowlers to settle and ride on their initial success. As a result, the required rate hasn’t got out of hand and has been well within reach. The other critical factor in his success since his second coming has been the way he has treated the bad deliveries. Even under pressure, Rohit hasn’t held back when the opportunity has presented itself.

 

There has been a significant change in his attitude since Rohit’s comeback to the team during the West Indies tour. His body language has been very positive and one can see the urge to do well at the highest level. The best example would be his gesture on getting out at Cuttack. He trudged off the park disappointed; knowing that he had another chance to see India through. Furthermore, his expressions on the boundary ropes when the tailenders pushed towards the total spoke a lot of his desperation to succeed.

 

It is clear that this year’s tour to the West Indies heralded a new era for the talented batsman and the stats reflect that fact. Here is a table that contains his overall figures, career stats prior to the tour to the Caribbean and his numbers since then.

 

M

Runs

Avg

100s

50s

Overall

68

1577

32.18

2

9

Record till Jan 23, 2011*

61

1248

27.13

2

5

Record since June 6, 2011**

7

329

109.66

0

4

 

*Fifth ODI vs South Africa at Centurion

 

**First ODI vs West Indies at Port of Spain

 

In his last seven ODI innings, since the start of the tour of the West Indies, his scores read: 68 not out, seven not out, 86 not out, 39, 57, zero not out and 72. Four fifties in seven games speak volumes of his efforts with the bat. The phenomenal average has been boosted by the high scores and the occasions where he has remained not out. The career average has shot up by over five points. He may not have got a hundred in this period but one can say that the knock at Antigua and his latest effort were as valuable as three figures.

 

The injury during the England tour cut short his run to cement his place in the side. That was the ideal opportunity for him to fit into the team and make himself a permanent fixture at the back of his success in the West Indies. Nevertheless, his returns in domestic cricket have been good and it doesn’t look as if the injury has hampered his progress. He seems to have started from where he left in the Caribbean and these are very positive signs for Indian cricket. The fact that he has fought his way into the Test squad adds to the positive omen.

 

Rohit Sharma is well and truly back on track!

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)