Rohit Sharma at 36: Final Phase of His Career, Biggest Challenge Lies Ahead

Rohit Sharma turns 36 on 30 April, 2023.

6 min read
Rohit Sharma at 36: Final Phase of His Career, Biggest Challenge Lies Ahead
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Much before he made his India debut, there was a lot of talk about a young man who was ready to take not just Indian cricket but world cricket by storm.

His peers were in awe of his abilities, while the seniors looked on in admiration that the baton could be passed on quite easily to him. Now some 16 years on, Rohit Sharma, stares at possibly his last phase as an international cricketer.

He is now at what cricketers refer to as the final gasp in a long career, but one which could well define who he is. As he turns 36 on Saturday, 29 April, Sharma faces the sterner test any Indian cricket captain has ever faced.

He has several challenges ahead of him, but only one thing will help him attain cult status amongst followers of Indian cricket. The big prize of the ODI World Cup is up for grabs and that too at home.

For an average Indian cricket fan, it does not matter what you do in whites. It does not matter if you win a Test series in Australia, not once but twice, or that you have not won a Test series in England since 2007 or never ever won a Test series in South Africa.

The only thing that matters to an Indian cricket fan is an ICC event trophy for the senior men’s team.


With the World Cup happening at home later this year, a repeat of the 2011 World Cup triumph is what will whet the appetite of everyone. Also worth remembering that since the 2013 Champions Trophy triumph, India has not tasted success at any senior men’s event. They have come close, but never been able to cross the line.

MS Dhoni with the ICC World Cup 2011 trophy in Mumbai.

Photo: BCCI

So Sharma faces the sternest test possible in what could be a career-defining year. If India does manage to do as well as the 2011 triumph, his name will be etched in history books forever. In India only the World Cup winning captains are feted. So Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are considered to be beyond criticism.

The likes of the late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Virat Kohli do not figure in the pantheon of great cricket captains for India, at least for an average fan. Pataudi fostered team spirit and engineered many famous Test wins. Under Kohli India became a force to reckon with in Test cricket.

But Pataudi captained before ICC events became the be all and end all, whereas Kohli’s Test wins count for nothing because the trophy cupboard is bare.


Sharma had to step in as India’s all-format captain after Kohli first resigned from T20I and Test role. However, Kohli was sacked unceremoniously as India’s ODI captain. This is really a role that has been thrust on Sharma in the final phase of his career. He needs to step up to the challenge and how!

A squad that has forgotten the art of winning major titles, somehow needs some revival. Sharma has to work his magic like he did during his heady days at Mumbai Indians. Sharma’s biggest challenge is the injuries to key players like Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah. Their time away from the squad has dented the preparation for the mega event. Sharma’s own form has been up and down.

Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma with the IPL trophy in Dubai. 



The squad has identified their major all-rounders including Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel. But the squad still lacks sting when it comes to picking up wickets in the middle-overs, whereas with the bat the middle-order appears to be a bit shaky. The recent loss at the hands of Australia at home would have shaken the belief of Sharma and the head coach Rahul Dravid.

A lot is on Sharma’s mind these days. His beloved Mumbai Indians is struggling to get going in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season. Then his own form across formats has been a bit up and down.

A lot more is expected from Sharma the batter too. With Shikhar Dhawan being dumped from the ODI squad, his form becomes that much more important. He needs to lead the way with the much younger Shubman Gill.

Sharma faces plenty of issues when it comes to leading the squad, battling form and expectations of a billion plus Indians. This could not have come at a worse time for him. A victory will ensure that Sharma gets a carte blanche from the BCCI, but if he doesn’t…


The other big matter on hand is the small issue of Test cricket. India battles Australia in the World Test Championship (WTC) final at The Oval in London in June. India are going in with an experienced squad. Sharma is again at the forefront. Test cricket came late to Sharma either because the line-up was packed with champions of the past and then injuries kept him away.

When the champions quit, Sharma took time to adjust before finally settling for the Test opener’s role in 2019. He has since then blown hot and cold as India’s Test opener. A lot more was expected from Sharma. But he has had to battle more injuries since taking over as India’s full-time Test captain. He has missed more Tests than he has played both as a player and as a captain.

Luck has really not favoured Sharma as India’s Test cricketer.

If India do not do well in the WTC final, Sharma would be hard pressed to take a call on his Test future with the next cycle starting in July. Captaining India in all three formats is anyways a tough task. But with a new cycle starting soon enough, it might be the perfect time to rebuild the squad under a younger captain.

Rohit Sharma during the Test match against Australia in Feb 2023

Photo: BCCI


The only carrot dangling in front of Sharma could be that he could aim to be the first Indian Test captain to win a series in South Africa later this year. Does anyone really care about that these days?

The bigger prize is still the ODI World Cup title.

With a five-Test series against England lined up for early 2024, Sharma could well be tempted to take on Bazball at home.

But frankly time is running out for Sharma. At 36 he has very limited time and a lot of things on his plate to be counted amongst the pantheon of Indian greats.


His records do not do justice to his ability and a lot more was expected of him all through his career. If he had stayed fit longer and embraced the various formats as was expected, he would have been at the same level as the other greats of Indian cricket.

Even now he is a giant in ODI cricket, just about a good Test batter and a domestic T20 champion.

If Sharma himself was to rewind the clock back to 2007 he would probably have taken these accolades hands down. But for the kind of talent that had everyone gasping for breath Sharma could have done a lot more.

Rohit Sharma before the third test against Australia

Photo: BCCI


He has that extra time while batting, maybe in the last phase he still has that something extra which can propel him higher. We will wait and watch.

Till then, wishing you a very Happy Birthday Rohit. Do well!

P.S: We are a bit greedy, win both WTC and the ODI World Cup titles, please!

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