Author : Kaushal M
It’s not normal for someone to play 58 innings for India without making a century.
It’s not normal for someone to manage to remain in the Indian team for three whole years, without having scored a ton.
It’s not normal for someone to have a batting average that barely touches 34 in over a hundred games, and still always be in contention for a spot in the next match.
It’s not normal for someone to be allowed to fail ever so often, especially when perpetual bench-warmers like Rahane are consistently knocking on the door.
But then again, Rohit Sharma is not a normal cricketer. When he bats, it is quite clear that he is something special.
Rohit Sharma – a victim of inconsistency
His batting thoroughly mesmerises you. It hypnotizes you. It captivates you. You feel sheer joy when he cuts through point. You are convinced that his cover drive is amongst the most hauntingly beautiful shots played by any cricketer in the world.
Every time he is at the non-striker’s end, you find yourself anxiously hoping that the strike would rotate so you could see him bat again. You cannot stop watching, even if your house is on fire.
And then, he does what he does more often than not – he gets out playing a rash, ugly shot that violently murders all the hope that had dared to grow in your heart. Every innings, he baffles you. You are flummoxed. You are saddened. You wonder how someone can have so much talent and still disappoint so unfailingly.
Over the last six years, Rohit Sharma has effortlessly settled in the top position as the most frustrating quandary in Indian cricket – it almost looked like talent was wasted on him. In this piece, Jatin Sapru stated that if there was a court to put cricketers who waste their talent on trial, Rohit Sharma would have been issued a permanent visitor card.
In the first 87 ODIs of his career, he scored just 1978 runs, at an average of less than 30. For someone who could not bowl and was occasionally a slight liability on the field owing to fitness concerns, his contribution often tended towards zero.
For someone who was supposed to be the next big thing in world cricket, Rohit Sharma certainly did himself no favours by perennially underperforming. His occasional flashes of brilliance, coupled with the odd fifties that were few and far between, barely managed to keep him afloat.
However, his unabashed display of thorough inconsistency in international cricket was rarely visible in the Indian Premier League. In 97 IPL matches, Rohit stacked up 2513 runs at 32.63 – outstanding numbers for the T20 format.
For a batsman who relies heavily on traditional cricketing shots, his strike rate of 129.66 is commendable. He has won matches for his side from almost impossible situations, and has often managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The burden of captaincy has not had any visible effect on his batting, and he has continued to be a vital cog in the Mumbai Indians batting line-up.
Rohit Sharma has been outstanding in the shortest format
Every season, the IPL shows you the version of Rohit Sharma that you really want to see – the man possessing the supple, delicate wrists; the man who almost always seems to have the extra half second to play the ball; the man who oozes class with every shot; and also the man who would play according to the situation and not gift his wicket to the opposition – this version of Rohit Sharma clearly exists, but mysteriously disappears into oblivion in international cricket.
But now, something has changed. After being handed the responsibility of opening the batting, Rohit Sharma has been displaying uncharacteristic maturity at the crease.
The forties and fifties are coming with a greater level of consistency, and he has even managed to score that century that he spent the last 58 innings desperately searching for – a wonderfully composed, unbeaten 141 against Australia in the second ODI.
In the 22 innings where he has opened the batting, he has amassed 803 runs at a healthy average of 42.26. He has looked the part, and has taken to his new role like a fish to water. Akin to Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Sourav Ganguly, he too has completed a smooth transition from the middle order to the top.
Perhaps international cricket will now see a new Rohit Sharma. Perhaps we will now witness the version of Rohit Sharma that we have got so accustomed to watching in the IPL. Perhaps we will watch Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan form a stable yet explosive opening combination in the years to come.
After all, he has been guilty of following golden phases with extended periods of sheer nothingness. In 2011, he raised the hopes of one billion people by scoring 611 runs at 55.44. “He’s finally arrived”, we said. “All those years we invested in him has paid off”, we said. And then he went on to crush all our faith the very next year.
In 2012, Rohit Sharma only managed 168 runs in 14 games, at a treacherous average of 12.92 – only slightly greater than Zaheer Khan’s career batting average.
Rohit Sharma is currently going through a purple patch. But sooner or later, every purple patch comes to an end. And how Rohit deals with the situation when the runs aren’t gushing off his blade will define him as a cricketer.
How he deals with fluctuating form will be a clear indication as to whether there really has been a transformation in him, or if he is still the Rohit Sharma who flatters to deceive.