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It's time for Rohit to row his bat!

Tuesday, August 02, 2021
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I remember watching Rohit Sharma bat alongside Sachin Tendulkar in the 2008 CB series in Australia and that was the first time I noticed him. Usually, when Sachin takes charge in the middle, particularly against Australia, we tend to become horses on blinders, but when Rohit complimented the master with his wide range of diversity in the middle, I enjoyed the rotation of strike in the middle.
Rohit was quite a quiet force by then; by this I mean his approach and attitude in the middle laid emphasis on a silent operator who was a peaceful pacemaker in a set-up defined by the unparalleled competitive race.

In the series against New Zealand and South Africa during the 2010-11 season, Rohit Sharma averaged a poor 15.50, there by letting go of his World Cup berth, a miss that hurts him even today. © AFP

This meant he had all the time in the middle even as he played as late as possible. One side to his batting defined the accumulator in him; the other side would underline the aggressor in him. It’s after this observation that I was forced to believe that Rohit Sharma was “Conventional in his style, yet contemporary in his approach.”

In modern day cricket, even as most batsman lay emphasis on their placement of shots, its Rohit’s exquisite timing which draws applause from some of the best in the business. Nothing about his stroke making is brash or brazen; it’s all very subtle and effective and this is where I would like to label him as one of those rare “compact players who is also an impact player.” A dual quality, which not many modern day greats possess.

After my burst of generosity with adjectives, which Rohit truly deserves, it’s time we dwell a little more into Rohit Sharma the batsman. In 2008, at the age of 21, he was selected for the Sri Lanka Test series. A side filled with seniors, Rohit was a traveller, but even then he diligently practiced during the mid-innings breaks, taking throw downs from then coach Gary Kirsten.

Watching him bat from the Press box, I pondered, “At 21, he is in line for a Test debut, an honour not many get.” I should have waited, much like how Rohit has had to wait ever since then. Had he not twisted his ankle on the morning of the Nagpur Test in Feb 2010, there would not have been another twist in the tale, but sadly after 66 ODIs, Rohit is still waiting for a Test call up.

Rohit’s failure to translate talent into runs and performance over the years has been his downfall. And this is why his first three years of international cricket looked more like an aberration against the run of play. He averaged 20, 25 and 25 in those three years as an Indian cricketer and many believed what showed promise was actually false promise. Class failed to translate into consistency even in the domestic level and Rohit hit a new low in his career. 

A stumble prevents a fall and Rohit, now in his fifth year of international cricket, realises “An ant on the move has done more than a dozing ox.” Right, let’s add some more perspective into his career by talking a few more numbers. In the calendar year 2010, Rohit averaged 38.76. In these 12 months, it was the best average he had ever achieved in his international career for a calendar year. Thanks to the Zimbabwe tri-series, he got a chance, and in the process recorded his maiden ODI hundred backed by another century in two days. Fair to say, by this time he had decided to make every occasion count.

If his performance in those 12 months was the best he had ever achieved, then another twist beckoned! The 2010-11 season proved to be fatal to his World Cup chances. In the series against New Zealand and South Africa, he averaged a poor 15.50, there by letting go of his World Cup berth, a miss that hurts him even today.

Well, the sad part for him was the timing of his under-performance. During the same time Virat Kohli produced gems in the middle, only to be crowned with a World Cup which he truly deserved. Al l of this meant a Test cap in West Indies was an automatic promotion.

However, necessity breeds invention and only when one feels the jolt, is when one revolts. Rohit was pushed to the wall only to analyse and then finalise his priorities and merits. Not surprisingly, post the World Cup, in the only series that he has played in, he averaged 128.50. A man of the series performance has in all probability booked himself a flight ticket to England for the ODI series.

So this seems that it leads one to believe that Rohit is next in line for a Test debut. Well, I firmly believe, he is the go-to man in the longer format. Rohit, very recently in an interview, admitted that breaking into the Indian Test team was never going to be easy, but it’s time the selectors give him a break. The selectors need to set the saddle on the right horse! Opportunity dances with those on the dance floor and Rohit’s footwork suggests he has organic purity in his movements.

At a time when Yuvraj, Raina and a few more are enjoying the competition for that middle order slot, Rohit would do just fine to enhance the competitive spirit for, after all, he has begun to Row his Bat.

“ABILITY IS WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF DOING, MOTIVATION DETERMINES WHAT YOU DO & ATTITUDE DETERMINES HOW WELL YOU DO IT.” These three lines should sum up Rohit’s approach and vision for the coming years much to the benefit of Indian cricket.

Mikhail Vaswani

Mikhail Vaswani, an anchor and presenter with Neo Cricket. He hosts popular shows like Dial C for Cricket, Cricket Central and Sportszone.