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The Rohit Sharma conundrum

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Rohit_Sharma_India_IPL_Cricket_Mumbai_IndiansThe Mumbai Indians were in deep trouble. Delhi Dardevils were on top and had claimed the wickets of Mumbai Indians’ top three, two of whom helped them triumph in the previous game despite chasing a huge target. There were quite a few overs to go and Rohit Sharma, the senior most batsman of the side and the captain, had the responsibility to bat through and guide his team to a competitive total on what was known to be a placid track.

8 overs were done and Mumbai Indians had 60 on the board with 3 batsmen back in the pavilion. Amit Mishra took the ball and Rohit Sharma took strike. The leggie bowled a googly and Rohit went for a sweep. He couldn’t time it well and was caught at deep square leg by Pat Cummins. Yet another failure for Rohit, especially to a leg spinner, prompted all the commentators and fans in unison to call for Rohit to get back to the opening slot, a place considered his home in the Indian team.

Rohit Sharma has played 7 matches this season, batting in 6 of them, and has managed a total of 54 runs. 40 of those runs came in a single innings. 14 runs in the other innings have brought a black cloud over his form and his batting position. Rohit averages 10.80 in the current season and his strike rate is below 100 (94.73), which has been a cause of great worry for the Mumbai Indians outfit.

Mumbai Indians have now won 6 games in a row without Rohit really delivering. Their think tank is left to wonder what things would be like if Rohit starts scoring again. Hence, it is evident that the management should sit and reassess roles, especially Rohit’s batting position.

Rohit has been forced to bat at 4 for a couple of reasons. Parthiv Patel cannot take any slot other than the opener and Jos Buttler has also done well there. Nitish Rana is in a rich vein of form and has showcased a string of brilliant performances at 3.

“I would love to open, but certain things you got to think from the team's perspective as well. Being the captain of the team – you have to think about the right balance. Batting at four (or) three gives us the balance we want. Last year we felt that we wanted someone to just bat till the end and it wasn't happening and we weren't able to finish (some) games.”

Sharma has had one of his best spells at Mumbai Indians as an opener. As Rohit the batsman prefers the opening slot, it is clear he is only batting down the order for the team’s sake.

But now, having seen Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers finish well as Rana holds up the innings in the middle, Rohit could well go up and open.

Now the big question: how? A possible way out of this conundrum could well be in dropping Parthiv Patel and getting Saurabh Tiwary in the side. Rohit can then join Buttler as the 2nd opener and allow Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Saurabh Tiwary to take up finisher’s role. Buttler can then take up the wicketkeeping duties as well and Mumbai could well add further strength to their side.

Parthiv Patel hasn’t been in great form and isn’t the same kind of impact player as Rohit or Buttler. His average is a meager 19.42, which isn’t good for an opening batsman of the top side in the league thus far. Barring a couple of cameos, Patel hasn’t done exceedingly well with the bat and him making way makes sense. This will not only help Mumbai Indians best utilize their best batsman, Rohit, but also add further steel in the batting department with Tiwary coming to the fore.

Saurabh Tiwary has been in great form. He has won Jharkhand quite a few matches off late, including one which saw him score a hundred in a match winning cause in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Despite batting much lower all through the IPL, Tiwary has a better average and a better strike rate compared to Parthiv. 

Putting all things into perspective, given that Mumbai Indians have a cushion thanks to starting well for a change, it is the ideal time for them to experiment with something like this. Who knows, they might turn into an invincible team.

 

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