Consider a hypothetical situation. It’s the ICC 2019 World Cup contest. Team India are in for a bat, having won the toss. The crowd is ready with the placards and is all cheery. The weather is set and the anticipation is there for a massive contest. The opposition is all charged up and fancying its chances already. Hey, but wait. How’s that possible? Even without a ball being bowled, can that ever be possible, one wonders? Turns out that Rohit Sharma is sitting out for the game, he’s picked up an injury.
Just the mere thought of the above- let’s face it- gives a shiver down the spine today, doesn’t it? For a batsman who’s forged a reputation by hitting bowlers out of the park, one wonders what can become of his side if he takes a hit?
Rohit Sharma isn’t merely a batsman. His is a presence that completes the identity of the team India. He’s a terror to bowlers just as much as he is to the fans who cannot cope with the idea of not having him in the side.
Runs, he’s hit plenty of them. For that’s the only way you could put it. He hits them. He doesn’t score them; he plonks bowlers out of the ground. He’s the Hitman- isn’t it?
3 double hundreds in ODIs, countless runs in T20 leagues, a commanding strike rate of 88, and someone who’s nearing 10,000 international runs- life for Rohit is a bit like Aladdin and his magic flying carpet.
The runs are flying, the hundreds drop down from the skies; he does it all the while the attention rests with his champion contemporary- Virat Kohli.
Isn’t it? In fact, in many ways, you could say the hype-factor doesn’t seem to sit well with Rohit Sharma for the simple reason that he’s a master of doing it ‘easy.’
In the nineties, there was Mark Waugh. In the period before, Dileep Vengsarkar and David Gower. And today, there’s Rohit Sharma, someone who’s surprisingly still fighting for a permanent Test spot.
But someone whose recent adventures in Australia- yielded magnificently constructed fighting fifties.
And somewhere in these twist and turns accompanying the demanding role of a modern cricketer- opening with Shikhar in ODIs and often repairing an inning with Pujara, Pant in Tests- remains Rohit Sharma’s growing enigma.
He may not seem the most technically reliable batsman. Neither does he boast of an overpowering physicality, something you are more likely to expect from a Watson, Gayle, Russell, and those sort of guys. Yet, picking bowlers and often confining them to a particular slot in the stands is what comes naturally to Rohit Sharma.
He can hit the likes of Malinga all day long. He can take a Lyon out of the attack, often requiring no more than a strong back-foot punch to the covers, not necessarily a huge heave.
And one wonders that if what constitutes a great modern day batsman are big scores, then perhaps, the fact that Rohit has done a fair bit of that and repeatedly affords him a place among the greatest modern day batsmen to have lived.
When that 209 wasn’t enough, he came up with a 264. Later, he answered critics who had questioned his ‘laziness’ not understanding that this is what makes him who he is, with another ODI double- that 208.
What’s interesting is that in a span of 2013-17, a time where only Gayle and Guptill scored ODI double tons, incredibly in the same tournament- the 2015 World Cup- Rohit Sharma had notched up 3 ODI doubles. He wasn’t even in the whites or facing the red ball. This was pulsating white-ball cricket, often played under night-lights in big grounds like Eden Gardens, of Kolkata.
While one thinks that the precious experience of having played overseas, especially in England and Australia will keep him in good stead in the upcoming 2019 World Cup, what should automatically inspire a lot of confidence would be this simple statistic.
Against teams like Pakistan, Australia, and England, three of the top opponents that Rohit is going to be facing come June, he averages 44, 61, and 44, respectively. A cumulative total against these three comprises approximately 2900 of his 8010 ODI runs. Does that tell us a thing or two about his form in limited overs game?
In fact, the following should inspire his fans to scream his name from the top of their lungs:
From the onset of 2013, Rohit has never scored under an average of 42. In fact, in 2014, 15, 16, and 17, he collected 1196, 578, 815, and 574 runs, respectively. In so doing, 14 of his 31 ODI hundreds would come during this patch. Where batsmen have purple patches, Rohit’s have been purpler, during this phase, it might be said and this exceptionally high-standard of consistent hit-making is what he’ll be required to carry into the upcoming World Cup.
For if there’s a batsman who ‘can’, apart from Virat- then it’s – Rohit Sharma the ‘Hitman!