The Superstar who tamed the Sri Lankan lions, Rohit Sharma, is the batsman India needs and deserves

Sharma has been in Kohli’s shadow for a long, long time — but now, he is finally coming into his own and making a name for himself.

 |  6-minute read |   07-07-2019
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“I am not talented , I worked for everything I have ..”, was Rohit Sharma’s reply to a twitter question last year on why he hates the ‘talented’ tag so much. Ever since his teens, Rohit was considered to be one of the best batting talents in the country and touted to be the next Sachin Tendulkar. But till very recently, experts and fans alike felt he was not doing justice to his blessings. The turnaround began in 2013 Champions Trophy where the team management invested in him as an opener for India. The dividends are pouring in plenty now as he hit his 5th century of the 2019 World Cup, the third on the trot. In the process, he broke the record for the most number of centuries in a single World Cup edition and India squashed Sri Lanka by 7 wickets.  

The India-Sri Lanka match was widely expected to be a tame affair but it got off to a spicy start. Not for any on-field action, but for the off-field drama between Ravindra Jadeja and Sanjay Manjrekar. The former Indian cricketer had called Jadeja a ‘bits and pieces player’ and Jaddu had dismissed Manjrekar’s view as ‘verbal diarrhoea’ in a tweet a day later. Sparks between the two have been flying for some time and interestingly, it was Manjrekar who was commentating when Jadeja came on to bowl for the first time in the World Cup.

jadeja690_070719013847.jpg Feisty on the field, feisty of the field: Manjrekar called Jadeja a ‘bits and pieces player’ but Jadeja was in no mood to take the criticism lying down. (Source: India Today)

If Jadeja was the talking point before the match, Rohit Sharma ensured that nobody would even mutter anyone else’s name post-match as he was the undisputed superstar of India's victory. His silken stroke-play and partnership with Rahul ensured that India knocking off the target of 265 was little more than a stroll in the park.

On a slow deck, the tricky target set by Sri Lanka, courtesy Angelo Mathews’ century, could have tested the Indian middle order had India lost a couple of early wickets. Instead, Rohit came out in sublime touch to hit the ball from the middle from the word go. Lasith Malinga, the man Sri Lanka looks up to when they need quick wickets, was punished by Rohit for boundaries whenever he erred in line. Seeing his partner so assured, K.L. Rahul too joined the party, playing delightful cuts and cover drives.

The last few matches have given hints of England pitches getting slower and helping spinners in the second innings. Keeping that in mind, Sri Lanka was banking on young Dhananjay De Silva to spin a web around the Indian openers who had seemed susceptible to such bowling against Afghanistan. But there were no such hiccups as Rohit Sharma hit two huge sixes of De Silva completely shattering his confidence. The second six especially was effortless (a word Rohit himself wouldn’t like being attached to him) with Rohit stepping out and lofting the ball straight over the bowlers head. It was one of the biggest sixes of the match. A little later, Rohit reached his century with his favorite pull for a boundary.

sharmaa690_070719013901.jpg Slow pitch, don’t care: Rohit Sharma seems immune to the effects of a slow pitch, as the man has been on a roll, hitting centuries after centuries. (Source: India Today)

At the start of the World Cup, Virat Kohli was the cynosure of all eyes and was expected to be the fulcrum of the Indian batting line-up. But, as the World Cup has progressed, Rohit has emerged as the jewel in India's batting crown. His terrific form has made light of the huge loss that injury to Shikhar Dhawan implied. In fact, Kohli himself has lauded Rohit as currently the best ODI batsman in the world. In the elevation of the ‘hitman’ Rohit from a good batsman to one of the greatest, the most important quality that has shone through is his mentoring skill. Having captained Mumbai Indians to 4 IPL wins, his leadership skills are considered at times better than Kohli by some.

Rohit might be a champion batsman but in a team sport, individual glory has no great value unless it adds to the team’s cause. His brilliance from one end has had an obvious effect on his make-shift partner K.L.Rahul, who seems inspired at seeing a great player at the other end bat. Rahul, too, was assured from the start and looked to stay positive all through his innings. It was sad that he got out after hitting his first World Cup century but his ton is a huge bonus as India gets ready for the Knock Out stages. His talent and strokes were always obvious to cricket cognoscenti, but his steely temperament and construction of innings has a clear reflection of Rohit’s influence. It is here that Rohit has truly become a ‘boss’ of the cricketing universe, one who is looked upto by all youngsters!

eyes690_070719013916.jpg ‘All eyes on me’: It was expected that all eyes will be on Virat and that he will score the majority of runs — until Rohit Sharma came in. (Source: India Today)

Sharma now leads the tournament’s run scoring charts with 647 runs in just 8 innings. While his batting may have camouflaged the fragile middle order, chinks in the Indian bowling armoury were clearly on display in the first half of the game. Bhuvneshwar Kumar had an off day in the office and Kuldeep looked far from penetrative in his spell. It was Jadeja and Bumrah’s shrewd bowling which made sure that India was not chasing too many. Going forward, India has to take a close look at its playing eleven, one where Jadeja’s ‘3D’ skills could be more effective than Dinesh Karthik or Kedar Jadhav. If Jadeja plays, India’s lower order gets strengthened and the bowling unit gets six clear options to ward off a bad day for any of its bowlers.

For now, Rohit Sharma’s achievement must be celebrated as such rare talents seldom make an appearance in the international cricket arena and sustain so long. He has had to live under Virat’s shadow for a lengthy period but now has finally come into his own and is on his way to breaking his idol Sachin Tendulkar’s records - as the legend himself had predicted!

Also Read: World Cup 2019: Bangladesh is out but not before the Bengal tigers gave India a fight!

Writer

Rajan Mahan and Siddhaarth Mahan

Rajan Mahan is a professor of journalism at the University of Rajasthan and Siddhaarth Mahan, is a state level cricketer, actor and writer.

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