Category Archives: ODI

Champions Trophy Final: All hype but no substance in Pakistan’s claim

What every marketing man of television industry wanted at the start of Champion Trophy is finally happening. An India-Pakistan Champions Trophy final is dream come true for them but when it comes to quality of cricket, certainly it isn’t. Everyone is talking about the turnaround that Pakistan made after their first match defeat against India but is it really that significant? Pakistan is a mediocre side and barring their win against England, their game has been anything but convincing.   

Pakistan’s match against South Africa was rain marred and against Sri Lanka, there was a battle of low-quality cricket on display. It seemed that both teams wanted to lose the match but Sri Lanka had more will to lose and hence lost the game.

Their bowlers have certainly made a turnaround since the match against India and Fakhar Zaman looks a good modern day batsman but beyond that nothing much has changed. These change shouldn’t bother India. India is a side which is far ahead of Pakistan on papers and they play the game in a far more professional manner than Pakistan.

There is no comparison of India’s batting and fielding with Pakistan. India’s bowling might lack the nip the Pakistani bowlers can generate in favorable bowling condition but on a batting beauty, Indian bowlers can easily out skill their counterparts with the variations that they possess.  

One more thing that is important in India-Pakistan match is that seldom it is decided by the skills of the game. It’s psychological warfare and the team which keeps its head calm often triumphs. In last decade or so India under Dhoni has become a confident side that knows how to perform without fear of failure on big occasions. Under Kohli, there is no shred of doubt that India will start as a confident side because Kohli knows anything but fear.

On the other hand, Pakistan has been jittery, nervous while facing India in last decade. Can they play carefree under Sarfaraz in a big final against India remains to be seen but I doubt that they will be confident. They would have liked to face any team other than India in a big final.  

The only hope for Pakistan is that conditions on the day remain overcast and an overconfident Indian team fail to negate extra swing that their blowers are capable of generating but if it’s bright and sunny day and the pitch is a batting beauty then India lifting Champions Trophy is a forgone conclusion. We should be discussing margin of India’s win not who is going to win.

Advertisements

Dhoni: Is the finisher finished?

How many of you remember Endulkar episode? Media hounded a 34-year-old Sachin Tendulkar in 2007. In every second article, people were reminded that Tendulkar has passed his prime and no longer deserved a place in Team India.

Tendulkar, however, thankfully did not bog down to the pressure created by the media. Selectors, considering Sachin’s iconic status in the world cricket, also did not gather enough courage to drop him. Torrid 2007 passed and Sachin got his mojo back. He showed the world that he was still the master of his game. After the Endulkar episode, Sachin was judged ICC Cricketer of the year in 2010.

A 36-year-old MS Dhoni, is facing the same issue. Since 2015 World Cup, he is being pestered about retirement in every press conference. His every inning in IPL 2017 was scrutinized like never before. Cricket experts have already started to write his obituary. Ex- captains are questioning his place in Team India. In short, circumstances are being created to force him to say goodbye to cricket but Dhoni has, surprisingly, found support from overseas players. Some even went on to say that Dhoni has done enough for Indian cricket and has earned the right to say goodbye to cricket as and when he likes.

Now, there are two questions hanging around here. First, “Does any out-of-form player has right to decide on the timing of his retirement?” Second, “Can Dhoni get his mojo back like Sachin did in 2008 or is it all over for one of the greatest ODI players?”

To answer the first question.

When a player is playing an individual game – where he is representing none but himself – he has every right to continue playing even if he is in bad form. You cannot ask a player to retire because he is no longer winning trophies. An outsider may see a match as a matter of winning or losing, a player sees it as something that he enjoys doing. So, a player in individual sport representing oneself has every right to take a call on his retirement as and when he likes because his game in not affecting the performance of any team. Leander Paes can go on playing tennis as an individual but to play in Davis Cup for India, he would have to fight for his place.

In a team sport, an out-of-form player has no right to decide on the timing of his retirement. A team becomes great not by letting underperforming great players continue playing but by bringing in new players and grooming them to replace great ones. So, an underperforming Dhoni has no right to take a call on his retirement as and when he likes. He can continue to play as long as he fits into team’s scheme of things and not because he wants to continue playing. Remember, the team is always bigger than the individuals, however great individual maybe.

Now, the answer to the second question.

In last two year, Dhoni’s exploits with the bat are nowhere near to what it used to be. He is now a shadow of his former self. He averages 38.80 in 24 ODIs since 2015 World Cup. In away matches, his average drops to 25.87 in 11 matches and that’s a staggering fall for a man whose overall average in ODIs is more than 50.

However, Dhoni is not completely out of form. He shows flashes of brilliance amidst mediocrity: the century against England in the last ODI series that India played, the match winning 80 runs in October 2016 against New Zealand, few scintillating knocks in IPL 2017. These flashes of brilliance convince us that Dhoni, although going down the hill, still has prowess that can help team India in ODIs.

In the second half of Dhoni’s career, he changed his batting style. He started slow, took the match til the end and won the match by hitting lusty blows in the last few overs.

We have seen many episodes of “Dhoni and the last over”. Two years back, there was certainty that Dhoni will win it for India in the last few overs. His nerves of steel and his powerful hitting sealed matches for India many times but, of late, he is not able to win matches for India by hitting lusty blows in last over.

Nowadays, whenever Dhoni comes to bat, he plays in binary mode. He either blocks the ball or hits them out of the ground. He struggles to rotate the strike in the middle overs that makes required run rate go higher. If Dhoni gets out in such situations, it becomes impossible for other players, with their limited capabilities, to score at an exceptionally high-required run rate and win matches for India. Even if Dhoni remains till last, bowlers have now found chinks in his armour. They have now identified weak areas where Dhoni is not capable of hitting big shots. Wide yorkers, full outside off deliveries and short pitch stuff have become go-to delivery for bowlers as shown by Rabada, Bravo etc. in recent times.

Dhoni often says that if he is not able to finish the match than a younger player would find it even harder to do it. It is true to some extent but if a youngster is not given chance how would team India get a finisher for future?

One good thing about Dhoni is that he still puts the price on his wicket and does not gets out easily. Recently, team India made a good move by sending Dhoni at no. 4. It is a step in right direction. It is going to help Dhoni to take his time to settle and play the role of run accumulator and leave the finishing job for youngsters like Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya etc.

Another thing that goes in Dhoni’s favour is his wicket keeping. Although the wickets go in the account of bowlers but some of them are just because of Dhoni’s brilliance. His super-quick hands behind the wicket and sharp reflexes do the magic that no other wicketkeeper can match. He also brings in his crucial inputs when India is in the field. He is still guiding force of Captain Virat Kohli, which was evident during last ODI & T20 series that India played.

These things help Dhoni to keep his place in team India but believe it or not, Champions Trophy is going to be acid-test for Dhoni. If he fails here, we may never see him wearing the blue jersey again. Players become great not only because they know how to perform but also because they know how to bounce back when they are down and out. At the age of 36, time is running out for Dhoni but hopefully, he will bounce back.

Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going and Dhoni is certainly toughest of them all.

Most memorable tournament for Dhoni as a captain

As the curtain draws on Dhoni’s captaincy, if and when Mahendra Singh Dhoni decides to writes his memoir, he is likely to choose Champions Trophy 2013 as his most memorable tournament as captain.

Just before Champions Trophy 2013, Spot fixing saga in IPL came to light and Indian team’s reputation took a big blow. Dhoni’s honesty was itself questioned. Team’s morale was down and no one believed that India could go on and win Champions Trophy 2013 in English Conditions which didn’t suit them.

In such turmoil, Dhoni took a young team devoid of stars like Yuvraj, Zaheer, Gambhir, Harbhajan etc to England and took one after another unconventional decisions. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan started to open the innings and became pillars of India’s success in CT2013 and afterwards. His gamble on Ravindra Jadeja finally paid off and he ended as most successful bowler of CT 2013 in conditions that was not much suited for spin bowling and also contributed valuable runs with bat.

2 years back at same place, Naseer Hussain commented about Indian fielders as donkeys on the pitch and in CT 2013, young and agile fielders of Indian team shut everyone’s mouth with exceptional fielding standards. It also displayed that Dhoni was right is giving importance to fitness and fielding in team’s selection.

India was cruising in all three departments in CT2013 but all that seemed not enough as India scored just 129 runs in the rain curtailed final. Before England team started their chase in final, Dhoni gave his famous huddle speech,

He said “God (referring to rain) is not coming to save us. If you want to win this trophy we will have to fight it out. We are the number one-ranked side so let us show it that they will have to fight for these 130-odd runs. So let us not look for any outside help.”

It looked all but certain till 17th over that England will win CT2013, when Dhoni, to the surprise of everyone, threw the ball to Ishant Sharma who changed the match with two wickets in consecutive balls.

When Tredwell missed the last ball and made it certain that India won the CT2013, Dhoni’s mask of calmness slipped and he jumped with unbridled joy. It showed how much he valued the victory of CT2013. He not only won CT2013 but also silenced his critics. He displayed how to keep pressure off the team in such turmoil, he displayed how a team full of young players who are hungry for success and have passion for the game are more likely to get success than team full of stars but devoid of passion for the game and hunger for the success.

In that tournament, Dhoni and his team ticked every box, that has to be his favourite tournament as Captain.

India’s tour of Zimbabwe : Dhoni’s pride at stake

Team India doesn’t have an off season. They play cricket throughout the year and on most occasions stakes are high, in such scenario, Dhoni on most occasions, at toss, utters three magical word: “Team is unchanged”. Dhoni can’t be blamed for not testing bench strength as high stakes throughout the year don’t provide him luxury of testing bench strength.

Tours like that of Zimbabwe give Team India chance to test bench strength. Most of the regular players are given rest and others’ are given chance to prove their mettle. This tour is no different. However an exception has been made this time, Dhoni is travelling to Zimbabwe for the first time since 2005.

Zimbabwe might be low ranked team but when it come to playing determined and passionate cricket, they are no less than any top team. India’s inexperienced team may find the tour not as easy as they expected.

For young players, it is going to be tough tour. Good performances in this tour may not earn them a regular spot in Team India but a bad series against Zimbabwe might shut the door of Team India for them as Indian players are expected to do better against teams like Zimbabwe whereas a bad performance against Zimbabwe is seen as the fact that player is not cut out for international cricket.

Dhoni, earlier, in his many press conferences has said that India, now a days, dont produce readymade cricketers who come and fit in international cricket, especially the bowlers. This tour is full of yougsters who have made their name in donestic cricket and IPL. It is the time for these young players to prove their captain wrong and show to the captain and the world that they have capability and skill to take world by storm.

Biggest stake in this tour is of Dhoni. People have started writing his cricketing obituary. Large section of media, cricket experts and ex-players are gunning for Dhoni’s head. It’s not that Dhoni’s captaincy skill has drastically deteriorated. He is still the same but his batting has lost some of the sheen. He is still fit, always puts price on his wicket and is among best wicketkeepers that world has seen. So question is why then everyone is gunning for his head. Answer to this question is simple , the soon to be captain, Virat Kohli, is in form of his life for last two years. He is a run machine, a winner and arguably best batsmen of this generation. His form with bat has put him at numero uno position and on the other hand Dhoni’s not so good season with bat has burdened and shackled him. Cries of removing Dhoni as captain has more to do with his not so good performance with bat than with his captaincy skill.

If Dhoni fails to perform with bat in this tour than his removal from captaincy is all but certain. Dhoni has to realise that his best place to bat in ODIs is at number 4. He has to forgo his role as finisher and has to become a run accumulator, which he is definitely capable of. It will work in India’s favour as India will get to try different players as finisher and by the time Dhoni decides to hang his boot, a replacement finisher would be ready. India will also get a better no.4 player in Dhoni which will give team India the balance that is lacking for past few years. Dhoni’s pride is at stake in this tour because a man who has won so many matches for India both as captain and as batsman is being forced out of team and to salvage his pride Dhoni has to move at no. 4 if he fails to do so this might be last series that we see Dhoni as captain of team India.

What number says about Rohit-Dhawan partnership

There have been many great opening pairs in the ODI cricket: One such great pair was that of CG Greenidge and DL Haynes. They held the record of most successful opening pair for long and their exploits as openers paved way for West Indies’ dominance in the World Cricket. Another such great pair was of AC Gilchrist and ML Hayden, and it was not surprising that their exploits led to strengthening of Australia’s dominance in ODIs.

India, over the years, also had few successful opening pairs.The pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag blasted opponents all over the world and were seen as a force behind India’s success in the ODIs. Gambhir and Sehwag also had fair share of success while being opening pair of India but, among all pairs, the most successful opening pair in the world cricket remains that of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. They hold the record of most number of runs scored and most number of century stand by an opening pair.

Recently, in an interview, Rohit Sharma said that he is hopeful that his opening partnership with Shikhar Dhawan can go on to emulate the highly successful pair of Tendulkar and Ganguly. He further added that although he is delighted with the comparisons that people make, he acknowledged that the duo has a long way to go if they have to match the success achieved by the Tendulkar-Ganguly duo.

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma started to open together for India in ODIs, on 6th June 2013, in a match against South Africa in Cardiff. They got instant success as their first opening partnership gave India a start of 127 runs in South Africa and it was followed by another century partnership against West Indies at Oval. Consecutive century opening stand on overseas wicket was good omen and it also indicated that India’s search for a stable opening pair after retirement of Sachin may end soon.

Two years and eight months later, let us see what number says on their performance as opener, on thoughts of the opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan emulating successful opening partnership of Tendulkar-Ganguly and how are they positioned when compared to top 4 opening pair of highest run-getters.

Opening Pair Innings Runs Avg 100 50
Tendulkar-Ganguly 136 6609 49.32 21 23
Gilchrist-Hayden 114 5372 48.39 16 29
Greenidge-Haynes 102 5150 52.55 15 24
Tendulkar-Sehwag 93 3919 42.13 12 18
Rohit-Shikhar 54 2450 46.22 8 8

The duo of Rohit and Shikhar currently average 46.22 which is better than opening average of Sachin and Sehwag but they still have a long way to go to match average of 52.55 achieved by pair of Greenidge and Haynes. The duo give 50 plus start to India per 3.375 inning which is comparable to Tendulkar-Sehwag’s 50 plus start per 3.1 inning and Tendulkar-Gaguly’s per 3.09 inning but they need to be more consistent to match Greenidge-Haynes’ stat of 50 plus start per 2.61 inning and Gilchrist-Hayden’s per 2.533 inning.

Century stand between openers not only eases the pressure on coming batsmen but also put the team in a commanding position in any match. Pair of Rohit and Shikhar do very well in this regard, they give a century stand per 6.75 inning which is much better than Tendulkar-Sehwag’s century stand per 7.75 inning and Gilchrist-Hayden’s per 7.125 inning. The stat is also comparable to Greenidge-Haynes’ stat of per 6.8 inning and is second to only Tendulkar-Ganguly’s stat of per 6.47 inning. This reflects that the pair has a great impact on team’s performances in ODIs.

Another stat that is worth mentioning is that all the 8 ODI centuries stand between Rohit and Shikhar led to India’s victory; and if this stat is combined with previous stat of century stand per 6.75 inning, it reveals that every 7th match played by India is won by the impact of opening partnership between them. This stat alone makes them a great opening pair for India and not to forget the fact that they already sit at 13th position in list of all time highest run getting opening pair, which is commendable, considering the pair is only 54 match old.

Now let’s see what the numbers of contemporary opening pairs reveal.

Opening Pair Innings Runs Avg 100 50
Rohit-Dhawan 54 2450 46.22 8 8
Guptill-McCullum 46 1820 41.36 4 12
Finch-Warner 24 978 40.75 3 3
Amla-de Kock 46 1787 38.84 6 4

These stats reveal that the opening pair of Rohit and Shikhar is way ahead of their contemporaries and they are definitely a pair to look forward to but statistics hide as much as they reveal, so these stats can’t be seen in black and white.  We must consider the fact that partnership is not only about statistics but also about chemistry. Chemistry between partners is essential to be successful in longer run. It includes understanding the game of each other; shielding partner from an in-form bowler when partner is out of form; being aggressor when partner is not connecting the ball well, so that he gets time to settle without feeling the pressure; playing the second fiddle when partner is going all guns blazing, understanding the running between wicket of partner.

When we see Rohit and Shikhar on the field, there seems to be a great chemistry between them. When Rohit was struggling, early in his career as opener, to get a quick start, Shikhar played the role of aggressor. When, recently, Shikhar was out of form, Rohit reversed the role and became aggressor. Unlike the misunderstanding that prevails when Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are on crease, leading to run out of one of them, Rohit and Shikhar understand running speed of each other and run between the wickets accordingly. They also understand each other’s batting style well.

Rohit Sharma has been revelation since opening the inning for India, scoring at a strike rate of 92.63 and average of 60.34 but inconsistency of Shikhar Dhawan is a hindrance for long term success of this pair. Shikhar’s few big innings are most of the times followed by a long period of lull. Shikhar Dhawan still has a decent average of 43.82 and strike rate of 90.78 in that period and it is commendable record but if Shikhar Dhawan can bring a bit of more consistency in his batting then pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan can definitely think of emulating or even surpassing great pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly and take India to new heights in ODIs.

This article has also been published here at sportskeeda

The Curious Case of Indian Fast Bowlers

In the movie ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ the protagonist Benjamin is born with the physical appearance of a 70-year-old man and gradually becomes a child. Like the protagonist Benjamin, Indian fast bowlers also have a reverse development cycle. They come into the team with a lot of promise, and somehow lose their bowling abilities in quick succession and disappear faster than they came. Unlike any other country’s fast bowlers, Indian fast bowlers don’t improve but they deteriorate with time.

Irfan Pathan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are examples of this reverse progression. They came in team as promising swing bowlers and wowed the world with their swing bowling in their debut year, but somehow in coming years, instead of improving their skill, they lost their ability to swing the ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar fall was even steeper than Irfan’s fall.

Bowler Matches Played

in debut year

Avg/Eco in

debut year

Matches Played

since debut year

 Avg/Eco after

debut year

Irfan Pathan   28 26.38/4.98 92 30.96/5.36
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 26 32.50/4.59 31 44.10/5.13

 *Avg = Runs/Wicket, Eco = Runs/Over

If we make a list of such bowlers, the list would be longer than Ishant Sharma.

One thing that is common among all these fast bowlers is that they never seem to have heard one the best clichés of cricketing world- consistency in line and length- and as a result, their erratic bowling often let down the captain, the team and the fans.

It’s true that cricket has decisively turned in favour of the batsmen; bats have become broader, heavier and more powerful; pitches are flat; fielding and other rules have also been tweaked in the ODIs to help the batsmen. But that can’t be an excuse for bad bowling performances, that, over the years, Indian bowlers have mastered. When bowlers around the world are improving their skill-set to outdo the batsmen, Indian bowlers are busy making past mistakes.

If someone asks question that how many times have you seen Indian fast bowlers bowling down the leg when captain has set a 7-2 off-side field, or how many times have you seen Indian fast bowlers bowling full length delivery, the very moment captain has set field for short-pitch delivery or vice-a-versa? Answer to each of the question is: almost every time. Captain Dhoni looks like a clueless man in these circumstances, not for any of his fault but because of the failures of his bowlers to execute the plan. A look at the stats of few fast bowlers shows how bad they have been in past couple of months.

Performance of bowlers since World Cup 2015 

Bowler Career Avg/Eco Match Played 

since WC 2015

Avg/Eco

since WC 2015

Bhuvneshwar Kumar 38.30/4.89 12 43.35/5.85
Umesh Yadav 33.74/5.99 9 46.58/7.18
Mohit Sharma 32.90/5.45 6 37.62/7.05

Jasprit Bumrah is new kid on the block. He is not express like Shoaib Akhtar neither has perfection of Glenn McGrath nor has swing of Wasim Akram and yet he is a revelation for Team India. He has just played 4 match, so it would be highly inappropriate to even write his name in same sentence along with these great bowlers but his name is worth mentioning in this article because in last few matches he has shown Indian fast bowlers how to bowl.

In no way, I am raising hope that he can be new bowling sensation for India. He may end up as a bowling star that India is yearning for or may disappear after 20-30 matches like others in the past have disappeared but he has definitely caught the eyes of everyone in this short duration.

He is delivering “Yorkers” which is worth gold in ODI. Number of yorkers that he bowled in last four matches is more than number of yorkers bowled by Indian bowlers (barring Md. Shami) in a year or two. Indian fast bowlers neither mastered art of bowling yorkers nor they seem to be interested in learning the art. Dhoni is his last presser of 2016 Australian tour said that yorker is a delivery that should be in repertoire of every fast bowler. How they use and how often they use it is a different issue but they should possess skill to deliver yorkers.

Bowling Yorkers requires lot of effort and practise. Wasim Akram says that to bowl yorkers, bowlers need to be fully fit as they have to bend their back and put pressure on their body. It also requires a lot of effort in nets. With kind of fitness level that Indian bowlers have, no wonder they don’t seem to be interested in learning the art of bowling yorkers. They are just too unfit to even bowl. How often Indian bowlers get injured is also a mystery. Md. Shami, who was leader of the pack till World Cup 2015 and was doing well in that role, has recently joined that infamous list of injured bowlers.

Another lesson that can be learnt by Indian fast bowlers from Bumrah is how he sticks with team’s plans and how he bowls according to field that has been set by captain. In a recent T20 match against Australia, Bumrah went for few runs in Initial overs but he didn’t lose faith in his bowling and continued to bowl in same areas with some changes in fielding to save boundaries. He delivered well directed bouncers that hurried batsmen and caused problems to the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner who are in form of their life. On the other hand, when Indian fast bowlers were attacked in past 2-3 years, they bowled on both side of wicket and were further punished by batsmen.

Another aspect which has been missing is wicket taking ability of Indian fast bowlers. Bumrah did a decent job in opening spell and did very well in death overs. This could be a lesson to Indian fast bowlers who just wait for batsmen to commit mistakes to get a wicket whereas Bumrah created opportunity with right variations in his bowling.

Another area of concern for Indian bowlers is death over. They deliver far too many good length balls in death that are easily dispatched over the boundaries by modern day cricketers. Yorkers, bouncers, slower deliveries which has been missing over the years, have come in abundance since inclusion of Bumrah in the team.

Bumrah has played just 4 matches and this is just too small a sample to deliver any kind judgement on his bowling but it certainly exposes Indian bowlers and bowling coaches that India had in these years. Why couldn’t bowling coaches made these bowlers consistently bowl yorkers, wide yorkers, slower deliveries, well directed bouncers, loopy bouncers is a puzzle that needs to be solved, responsibilities for this needs to be fixed and some heads must roll. India can’t always rely on their batsmen to win the matches for them, bowlers need to step up and match the best in the world and for that bowlers need to follow natural progression not the reverse progression that they are following these days.

2013: The year that changed Rohit Sharma

In march 2012, Sachin Tendulkar said that either Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli c can break his record of 100 international centuries. This statement by Sachin left many people baffled, as Rohit Sharma at that time was struggling in the middle-order in ODIs, was yet to make a debut in Tests, and had made just 2 centuries in the last 5 years.

Rohit Sharma, early in his career, showed glimpses of his class. In 2008, he had an impressive outing in Australia. The first impression that anyone had of Rohit Sharma was built on the Inzamam-ul-Haq-like time that he had to play any shot, and Inzamamsque lazy elegance that he exhibited while playing his shots. He was easy on eyes and his shots were elegant, but out of nowhere, he used to play a freakish shot, costing India his wicket. The habit of throwing away his wicket at crucial junctures left his backers, his critics and everyone else frustrated.

Time was running out for him as he was not converting his potential into performance and potential doesn’t win you matches but performances do. Cries of dropping him out of the team grew louder as other equally gifted player like Rahane was waiting in the wings. But Captain Dhoni had great faith in him, and hence, selectors gave him a long rope. Still he continued his pattern of having many more number of off-days than the days when he performed well. His place in team was questioned, experts began to ask when will his talent convert into performances, when will he become consistent. The word “Talent”, which was used to define Rohit Sharma, had by then turned into a word that was used to mock and ridicule him on social media. From high of Sachin’s praise, he had fallen to becoming butt of cricketing jokes.

In the meantime, after World Cup 2011, Indian openers started to struggle and Dhoni, on 23 January 2013, keeping his unflinching trust in Rohit Sharma, threw him the challenge of opening for India in ODIs and since then Rohit Sharma never looked back.

He started scoring lots of runs consistently but still the flourish was missing. The series that changed Rohit Sharma was Australia’s tour of India in 2013 where he scored that famous first double hundred in Bangalore. His consistency in that series was admirable. He scored a double century, a century, a fifty and amassed a record-breaking 491 runs in that bilateral series which India won 3-2. 491 run is still the highest run amassed by any batsmen in any bilateral series.

The missing block in the “talent” puzzle was found in that 2013 home series against Australia and for this, some credit must be given to decision of making Rohit Sharma captain of the Mumbai Indians that year. Captaincy brought a sense of responsibility and maturity in Rohit Sharma’s batting. He started to convert 50s into daddy hundreds and looked to bat throughout India’s inning. His freakish wicket throwing shots has suddenly disappeared. Rohit Sharma 2.0 was loaded.

His maturity post 2013 Australian tour is evident from the fact that before the series, in 102 matches that he played, he averaged just 32.37 which didn’t justify his talent but since 13 october 2013, in 46 matches, he has scored 2450 run at an average of 61.25 and strike rate of 96.60, including 8 centuries ( 4 of which were 150 and above scores ) which is even better than performance of India’s premier batsmen Virat Kohli, who in same period played 58 matches scored 2637 run at an average of 54.93 and strike rate of 96.38, including 10 centuries.

In away matches since 13 October 2013, Virat Kohli played 24 ODIs and scored 955 runs at an average of 45.47 including 4 centuries whereas Rohit Sharma in same period played 20 away ODIs and scored 960 runs at an average of 53.33 including 3 centuries.

In the matches that India won in the same timeframe, Kohli played 28 ODIs and scored 1502 runs at an average of 71.52 whereas Rohit  played 21 ODIs and scored 1317 run at an average of 73.16.

Where he lacks, in number compared to Kohli, is in chasing but Kohli is superman while chasing and none comes close to him in that aspect. Kohli while chasing has an average of 99.33 in winning cause whereas in same period since 13 October 2013, Rohit Sharma while chasing has an averages of 65.22 in winning cause, which is also exceptional.

This is in no way an attempt to compare their batting prowess but these stats are put to reflect the consistency that Rohit Sharma has brought in his game and how important cog he has become in India’s ODI scheme of things since accepting the role of opener.

He has now combined his talent with consistency in scoring runs and is becoming successful in converting his potential into performances. He looks set to serve India as a successful opener in ODIs for a long time and take forward the legacy of the great Sachin Tendulkar himself in that opener’s slot. Filling Sachin’s shoes is a very tough and an intimidating task, but numbers back Rohit to do it successfully. Now we know why the master had put in so much trust in his fellow Mumbaikar when he said that Rohit could be the one to break his record. In any case, we should not have doubted the judgement of the Sachin ( read GOD ) in the first place.

 

This article has also been published here at sportskeeda.