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Redemption Of Rohit’s Dismal Past At Sri Lankan Soil

September 3, 2017

That Rohit Sharma had undergone some tumultuous times at Sri Lanka is something that can be understood easily by glancing at his numbers prior to the ongoing series. He averaged only 15 in the 18 innings that he had played there before with just the one half century to his name, not to forget his last ODI series in Sri Lanka where his scores read 5, 4, 0, 0 and 4 – arguably the lowest point of his cricketing career. To add to his woes, he was run-out for a single-digit score in the opening game

of the series and with all that it seemed as though the ghost of Lanka is still haunting Rohit on and off the field.

But since that single-digit score Rohit has grown from strength to strength. Not only he has turned the tide in the last 3 innings with scores that put him at the top of the batting charts for the series, but also has eradicated all the doubts that were raised over his ability to play at the Sri Lankan soil by scoring more than as many runs as he scored in his past 18 appearances over there.

His last two hundreds came in different situations, but the fluency in his stroke-play remained the same. He must have been kicking himself having given his wicket away rather cheaply in the second ODI after he had looked in great touch and it was something that he was set to rectify in the matches to come. He scored a well-measured century in the 3rd ODI to give his team an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series, whereas in the 4th ODI he took the full advantage of Virat Kohli hogging the limelight and in shadows notched up yet another one day international hundred, his 13th. Be it the former innings where Rohit took the lead role and with MS Dhoni performed the rescue act to pull India out of a disconcerting position or second-fiddle role in a 219-run partnership with the Indian captain to set the foundation for a massive total – Hitman appeared at ease during both essays.

For a player of Rohit Sharma’s calibre it was just a matter of time that he will wipe out all the bad memories from Sri Lanka earlier in 2012 given that he is now miles ahead from the player he was back then. But if one has to give credit to Sharma for transforming himself from the player who was constantly confounding his fans and critics to the one who has become remarkably consistent and prolific over the years, take nothing away from the former Indian captain MS Dhoni who backed the current vice-captain’s ability to open this batting. Although during the early days of this move people kept pointing at Rohit’s instinct to push or drive at the deliveries outside off without moving his feet much, Dhoni knew that most of the ODI pitches outside India are excellent batting wickets offering very little lateral movement. That’s where his attacking cuts and pulls off the short balls make him a very strong contender at the top against fast bowlers with the new ball. While the outside-off flaw hasn’t completely gone, he is still a little vulnerable there, but only at the start of his innings; overall he looks a lot more assured while leaving the deliveries and has tightened his technique.

The aspect that stands out about the recent ODI batting performances of the Mumbai Indians captain is his ability to bat deep into the innings. 7 out of his 13 ODI hundreds have been an excess of 135 scores which puts him in an elite group of just the 3 batsmen to have achieved the same feat. Also his scoring pattern through a 50-over game shows that how well he has grasped the art of pacing an innings and changing gears as per requirement. He starts slowly and scores at about a strike rate of 67 in the first 10 overs and gradually takes it to around 80 in the middle overs. Then somewhere between 25th to 30th over a sudden spurt is noticed when he starts scoring more than a run-a-ball. Once he reaches his century he takes the tally of hitting boundaries higher and subsequently makes up for all the dot balls he plays earlier. And finally, once the game approaches the 44th over mark, he goes into an overdrive, scoring more than 12 an over at regular basis. His mind-boggling strike rate during that particular period shows that he makes an optimal use of the time spent at the crease prior to the these final overs.

His dot ball and boundary percentage indicates that he understands the need to pace his innings well. At the beginning his dot ball percentage is higher as he leaves a lot of deliveries to keep a close look at the movement and the bounce of the track. Also he makes the most of the field restrictions by pulling out his attacking lofted shots. While his dot ball percentage keeps on reducing at every stage of the innings, the boundary percentage might drop a little at this middle overs before it spikes up again towards the end.

Rohit makes batting look easy and he is one of the rare Indian batsmen who is never bothered about neither pace nor bounce. He uses pace to put the ball into the gaps and bounce to get underneath and go aerial. When he is in full flow there are few who come close to him and when he bats that way, it’s worth paying for a ticket to withstand the elements in the stands. While all such views about him hasn’t changed much over time, his understanding of the dynamics of a limited-over game has come a long way. In this series he is making sure that he is churning out some fitting rewards for a chequered 10-year career at the International circuit.

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