Rohit Sharma’s innings of 209 suggests that he is ready to take his game to the next level. His performances since being promoted to open the batting have been stunning and he is gradually shedding the tag of the enigmatic batsman, whose talent was never in question, but performance did not match it. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines certain stats and evaluates the change in Rohit after the promotion.
Rohit Sharma always had this enigmatic aura. While his copious potential was never in doubt, his performances failed to match the expectations. However, the move to promote him to the opening slot has worked wonders and the statistics reveal his consistency. In 22 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) in 2013, Rohit has hit 1,071 runs at an average of 59.50 with two tons and seven fifties. Along the way, he has shown signs of maturing into a dependable batsman, in total control of his game and approach. If the 209 against Australia is anything to go by, he has certainly grown in confidence and is ready to take his game to the next level.
Rohit was promoted to open the innings during the Mohali ODI against England in January this year and has gone from strength to strength since. Before that game, he had only opened thrice, which was against South Africa in 2011. Take these knocks way then, majority of his outings have been in the middle-order. While he did essay the odd good knock in those roles, mainly against the West Indies in 2011, he wasn’t able to sustain the consistency over a longer period of time.
Here is a break-up of his numbers while opening the batting and the other spots.
The transformation in Rohit is not only obvious in the stats and figures, but also in his body language and approach to an innings. With Shikhar Dhawan going strong at one end, Rohit is initially content in watching the ball closely and taking the singles. He bides his time to adjust to the conditions and build a platform for a long innings. A player of his calibre can make up for the lost deliveries in no time as hitting is a cinch once he is in the zone. Opening the innings also allows him the time to get into his rhythm and settle down for a long stint.
Rohit’s adjustment was particularly impressive during the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 and the ODI tri-series in the Caribbean. Some of the conditions were not very easy for batting, but Rohit managed to see off the initial period and then charged. But, with his abundant talent, people were always going to complain that he wouldn’t convert his starts into big ones. Prior to the series against Australia, Rohit got six fifties this year with a highest of 83. Many times, he got out after doing all the hard work. Now, he has shown that he can convert them into big scores — humongous even. The 141 not out at Jaipur came in a tall run-chase and the breathtaking 209 set up the game for India.
In many ways, Rohit’s change of fortune after being promoted to open the batting is similar to that of the great Sachin Tendulkar. The Indian legend opened the batting for the first time on the tour to New Zealand in 1994 and smashed 82 in his maiden outing. Here is a comparison of Tendulkar’s record before he opened the innings to that of Rohit’s before the Mohali ODI against England this year:
Before opening the batting:
*Record before Mohali ODI vs England. He did have three innings at the top vs South Africa in 2011
The numbers are quite similar; the average in particular reflects the tale perfectly. As Rohit has gone on to make a mark in 22 matches after being promoted, the case was very similar with Tendulkar. Here is a comparision between Tendulkar and Rohit’s record in their first 22 games after being asked to open:
Record in first 22 matches after opening the batting:
*Batted at No 3 in one of the games
One can clearly see the shift after Tendulkar was allowed to face the new ball. In 22 games, he hit 1,023 runs at an average of 48.71 with three tons. Before being sent in at the top, Tendulkar did not have any ton in ODI cricket, but all that changed after that inspired move in New Zealand. When you look at Rohit’s table, you do find a lot of similarities and it is quite uncanny.
You must also consider the backdrop of Rohit’s promotion. In 2012, he had a torrid time as he averaged a paltry 12.92 in 14 matches with only one fifty. A string of single digit scores had pushed people to question his spot in the team, yet Mahendra Singh Dhoni chanced his luck and threw the dice on the board. The talented Rohit has finally given a real glimpse of his ability.
Rohit has silenced his numerous critics with this performance. However, he has to build on that and bring more glory to his team. He has the perfect example of Tendulkar before him — one he would certainly like to emulate and would be inspired by. For now, the world watches as a Test cap beckons.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site's YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)
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