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Rohit Sharma: Needed in all 3 formats

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Rohit_Sharma_India_cricket_talentRohit Sharma. The man who began his Test career with a big bang, with a patient 177 on debut. Just 23 short of scoring a double hundred in his very first Test innings. This was at the Eden Gardens against a Darren Sammy-led West Indian team in November 2013. He got another century in the next Test, and stayed unbeaten on a Nelson at his home ground in Mumbai. The series ended and his third Test was an away-affair at the Wanderers against the Proteas. On the verge of equalling Mohammed Azharuddin’s record of three consecutive centuries in the first three Test matches of his career, Sharma could not get there.

He had to wait for four years before he could get his third Test hundred…this was the other day in the company of Virat Kohli. Another unbeaten innings! From September 2016, in seven Test innings, Sharma has scored 5 half centuries (3 of them unbeaten), and one century, and his average has peaked up towards the 50-mark.

While that was about Test cricket, his batting in ODIs also seems to indicate that this is the beginning of a strong phase in his career. From January 2016 till date, Rohit has notched up seven centuries and one double hundred in 30 innings. It was possibly the captaincy that fired him up to score his third double hundred in ODIs at Mohali against the Lankans. Being drubbed in the opening match also played a big part in it.

Going back in time: when Rohit got his first double hundred in ODIs, 209 against the Aussies in 2013 at Bengaluru (with 16 clean sixes and 12 fours), two other Indians had already achieved that feat before him – Sachin Tendulkar first, and Virender Sehwag after him, the latter beating SRT’s record by 19 runs, to post the highest score in ODIs (while it was almost 50 runs more than Kapil Dev’s 175 against the Zimbabweans, it is not quite as special as that world cup innings).

Rohit was possibly not content with being just one of the three batsmen with an ODI double century against their names. He surpassed Sehwag’s score in 2014, posting a mammoth, almost-unbelievable 264 against the Lankans again, again on the 13th day of a month – November in this case.

It would have been monotonous if this list of 200s featured only Indians. Thankfully, Chris Gayle and Martin Guptill added their names to it in the World Cup of 2015, the West Indian against the Zimbabwe and the Kiwi against the West Indies.

And that brings us to the unbeaten 208. Carrying his bat, leading from the front, and bouncing back in style from being 0-1 down…many things achieved in one go. Kohli taking a break has been a blessing in disguise, as now we know that there is another player who is not affected by the responsibility of captaincy…it merely seems to spur him on to greater heights; even vertiginous at times.

What is most striking is that his last two double hundreds have also clocked the highest strike rate among all, scoring at a rate of more than 150 runs every 100 balls – or over 9 runs every over faced.

It is a bit sad and strange that a man who began his Test career with a bang – compared to his ODI career, which was quite tempered and below his potential – struggled to retain his place in the middle order of the side.

If he had done so, Yuvraj, Rahane et al. perhaps may not have featured in the Test team after 2013. But remember that he is past 30 even as I write this piece. The Taurean (SRT is also one) instincts seem to have re-emerged in a very strong way…and one may well see Rohit Sharma scoring more consistently in all the three forms of the game for the next 6-7 years (a conservative estimate).

He needs to up his ante a little bit in T20Is…his maiden century in that format was against the South Africans in 2015 at Shimla. He has got a few half centuries after that one, but has not been as consistent an opener as he could be. That is also likely to happen as good form in two formats might spill over to a third in the New Year.

Good luck to you, Rohit!

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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