Gloves Off

Why the rise and rise of Rohit Sharma is a big moment for Indian cricket

The batsman can also be groomed as a prospective captain.

 |  Gloves Off  |  4-minute read |   24-12-2017
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Bowling in shorter formats of cricket can be traumatic. More so if you happen to be competing against Rohit Sharma on benign pitches at home. As the travel-weary Sri Lankans wait eagerly to sign out from this forgettable tour in Mumbai on Sunday, they have been haunted and hunted by Rohit Sharma.

What we saw in Dharamsala a fortnight ago on a lively pitch was the Sri Lankan bowlers utilising the conditions beautifully to wreck the Indian batting and win by a huge margin. Carping critics took out their knives and predicted this Indian side would struggle against the South African pace battery at the start of the next year. Maybe, Rohit Sharma heard them.

Leading for the first time in a full series after Virat Kohli opted out, Rohit has shown great character in every sense. After all, what one saw in Dharamsala was scary as the Indian batsmen were blown away by swing and seam movement. It could have set the tone for the series in ODIs and T20 internationals.

Rohit took charge like a true leader, spoke to his men and then led by example with his own batting. The double hundred which he hammered in Indore was gripping. Commentators and pundits ran out of adjectives while describing his strokeplay, where the hallmark was not brute power, but sweet timing.

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Scoring runs in bulk was just one part of the job. Rohit the batsman also had to ensure the captain in him would blossom so that he could keep the team fired up. And that has been one of the highlights of this series. It’s not every day you get to lead the Indian team. There have been stand-in captains before this and Rohit knows a thing or two about captaincy as he has led Mumbai Indians in the IPL successfully.

Captaincy is an art and a science. Yet, these days, in shorter formats, a cricket captain has to be razor sharp. It’s not like Tests, where the captain gets time to settle down. In today’s ODIs and T20 matches, where rival teams can dissect every move thanks to technology, a captain needs to have great presence of mind.

Rohit Sharma has it. There are some who feel the Sri Lankans are the whipping boys. But that’s not the fault of the Indian team — their opponents are unable to do anything worthwhile in the series.

Frankly speaking, Rohit has been a bit of an enigma in Indian cricket. There was a time when he went through a bad patch and he was dubbed “No-hit” Sharma. One has to be inert to such comments. And Rohit has come out of these phases when his utility has been questioned.

Today, you could have a good debate among friends if Rohit is good for the shorter formats or he is a durable batsman with leadership skills who needs to be groomed. On Friday, when he came up with a mind-blowing 118 off just 43 balls in the T20 match, the commentators went ballistic.

People have watched master blasters before this in cricket. From the gum-chewing Viv Richards, who batted with characteristic disdain to Chris Gayle, the two West Indians have shown what it is to decimate bowling attacks. Rohit Sharma does not have the swagger of a Richards or the bulked-up frame of a Gayle.

Yet, when he bats, it’s a storm for those who have to bowl and field. By his own admission, Rohit says power is not the essence in his batting. He says it’s more about timing and finding the gaps. One cannot disagree as the ease and pace with which he has scored runs makes batting look so simple.

For those who have played cricket in years gone by, one complaint is that bats in yesteryears were not so good! This is a bit like saying an artist comes up with better work depending on the quality of the canvas and the paint and brush he uses. If the theory of modern bats being easy to swing be true, leading to more runs being scored, the world of cricket should be seeing more double hundreds and faster knocks in T20 internationals.

Rohit’s form is an asset to Indian cricket and makes things a bit easier for the team when they leave for South Africa. With Ajinkya Rahane’s form in tatters, Rohit can play a big role in the Tests. This is one format where he needs to prove himself in away tours.

For those looking at options for captaincy, Rohit can be looked at as a good prospect. It’s unfair and unreasonable to expect Virat Kohli to be in top gear all the time. Maybe, for those who look at the future of Indian cricket, Rohit’s rise is great news.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

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Writer

S Kannan S Kannan @kannandelhi

Sports columnist.

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