With three hundreds and 440 runs against his name, Rohit Sharma is sixth in the top-ten run-scorers’ list in this World Cup. @AFP

Let us start with a simple statistic. Rohit Sharma has scored 440 runs in six matches in the 2019 Cricket World Cup thus far, inclusive of three hundreds. In terms of records, he is just short of Sachin Tendulkar, who has four centuries in any one single edition of this tournament.

Overall, Rohit is sixth in the top-ten run-scorers’ list in this World Cup. Along with Virat Kohli (382 runs in six matches), they are the only two Indians on the list. This is where things get interesting – the Indian team has scored 1716 runs in six matches up until the England game on Sunday. Rohit alone accounts for 25.6 per cent of those runs.

With Kohli accounting for 22.2 per cent of India’s runs, there is not even an iota of doubt how dependent this batting line-up on these two batsmen. Perhaps, the loss to England painted an even clearer picture. They like to bat deep, and now in Shikhar Dhawan’s absence, perhaps they want to bat even deeper. And with the unpredictability surrounding India’s middle order, the result of every innings is dependent on two batsmen.

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Both Rohit and Kohli are fighters though, and responsible batsmen. They are not going to walk away from a duel, and this gives a new angle to their relationship, on and off the field. There is also the leadership angle. From a fans’ point of view, it is staggering when they are on song. When dismissed, it is worrying too. Overly relying on two batsmen is not how you win a World Cup.

Try telling that to Rohit, and he probably won’t agree. At the moment, he is man-on-a-mission, intent on taking as much responsibility of scoring runs. After the game against South Africa, where he batted in third gear on a tough pitch, Rohit spoke about the maturity factor of playing 200-plus ODIs. “It has to come in some time,” he said, with a smile, as if not expecting the question.

It wasn’t an obvious one. Over the last couple years, there has been a greater propensity in Rohit’s gameplay of making it count. Get a start, make it a half-century, then a hundred, and then a daddy one – that’s how he has three ODI double-hundreds to his name. It takes a different dimension when batting second – as a set, in-form batsman he wants to finish the game.

Through Rohit’s ODI career, India have won 45 matches whenever he has scored a half-century. He averages 155.41 in these wins, thanks to those double hundreds of course. Further reduce the time-frame herein – in the last two years, since the 2017 Champions Trophy, India have won 20 ODIs wherein Rohit has crossed the 50-mark. His average in all these wins is a staggering 181.33.

Here, the numbers’ game tilts even further in his favour. In the past 24 months, batting first, India have won eight games whenever Rohit has a half-century and he averages 145.71. Change that to batting second, and Rohit averages a staggering 231.20 whilst chasing in the last two years, helping India win 12 ODIs.

“It is a duty, actually. As long as I’m playing, I will not think that I have to — I have done this, and I have to keep doing it. As long as I’m playing, it’s the duty, it’s the job because in cricket we say forget what has happened in the past, focus on the present, and that is what I try and do, try and stay in present as much as possible, not think about what has happened in the past.

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“Yes, a majority of runs have been scored by the top three, but that’s why we are here – to score runs, and we will keep doing that as long as we are playing,” said Rohit, after this third hundred in this World Cup went in vain on Sunday.

It was a different knock from the ones he had played in this tournament so far. Against South Africa, there was a conscious effort to stay at the crease and weather the storm in a mediocre chase. Then, against Australia and Pakistan, he used form to orchestrate fluent knocks that shocked the opposition bowling attack. India got 330-plus in both those matches.

Dhawan’s injury perhaps jammed Rohit’s gears as well. The left-hander gets off the blocks in a hurry and allows his partner to bat for time. In his absence, Rohit not only has to shoulder the extra responsibility of getting runs but also balance out KL Rahul’s lack of time at the opening slot. The latter can be an irresistible batsman on his day, but he is taking time finding his groove after making the switch-over from number four to Dhawan’s vacant spot.

Missing his partner, Rohit went off the boil against Afghanistan and West Indies. The initial half of his innings was a struggle. The best batsmen tide over it though, and Rohit did too, seizing control of the innings. Despite Kohli getting out at the worst possible moment, India were in the game as long as Rohit was at the crease despite an improbable target. There is no greater credit to this responsibility he has taken on.

The underlying point here is simple. Rohit is India’s primary batsman at this World Cup, which is a massive fact given that Kohli has not yet hit his stride completely. Five half-centuries and no hundreds yet – when was the last time it happened. Maybe, the skipper is caught up in the quagmire of the middle order and trying to play a sheet-anchor role for the Indian innings.

India are missing Dhawan. And in his absence, Rohit becomes both the accumulator and enforcer at the top of the order.