Rohit Sharma's Overseas Test Success a Result of His Confidence in His Process
Rohit Sharma scored a century on Day 3 of the fouth Test against England at The Oval.
Rohit Sharma's century at The Oval against England on Saturday shows how far he has evolved as a batsman in red-ball cricket. Since making his Test debut in 2013, he has gone on to score seven tons at home. However, it took him about another eight years to get his maiden Test hundred in overseas conditions.
During this period, he has also gone past the 100-run mark 25 times in ODIs — including two double tons — and four times in T20Is, with 17 of those instances in the two formats combined coming away from home. Yet, an overseas Test hundred was the missing jewel in the crown for all these years.
Now that Rohit has achieved it, it feels like the wait has been worthwhile. After all, it was an innings of sheer quality from the 34-year-old, that too against the best seam-bowling combination played by England in this series.
The pressure was immense when he walked out to bat along with his opening partner KL Rahul, with England leading by 99 runs and three more days in the match to go. But Rohit soaked it all in and stood at the crease like a rock, waiting for the conditions to ease up.
He did get a life when Rory Burns dropped him in the slips towards the closing hours of Day 2, but Rohit made that life count and made the most out of it. The way he batted on Day 3 was almost flawless. He showed immense patience and determination to deal with the challenging conditions in the first hour of play.
Even though Rahul got dismissed, bringing an end to their superb 83-run stand, Rohit continued to be watchful. Usually, it's him who dominates in a partnership. However, this time, it was him playing second fiddle to Cheteshwar Pujara, who came out with a positive mindset and started playing some delightful shots.
As Pujara continued punishing the English bowlers with cuts, upper cuts and pull shots, Rohit held one end up until they had accumulated a substantial lead over England and consumed a significant amount of time in the match.
Once he did that, he started to play with his usual attacking approach. It took him 145 balls to bring up his first 50 runs but he scored the next 50 in just 60 deliveries. While Rohit was still watchful against the seamers, he decided to attack their off-spinner Moeen Ali.
He moved from 80 to 100 in just 12 deliveries and 14 of those runs came off Ali, which included a huge six over the long-on boundary to bring up his much awaited century.
It was not surprising at all. Every time he has batted in this format this year, it has looked like he is all set to get that three-figure score. He missed out on that narrowly at Lord's but went all the way this time at The Oval.
In fact, his success in overseas conditions of late can be mainly attributed to his patient approach and the confidence he has shown in his process.
Since Rohit started opening in Tests, his strike-rate at home reads 67.89. In overseas conditions, it drops down to 43.65. That sums up how his method of scoring runs in home and away conditions have been completely different.
The Indian batsman conveyed the same thoughts in the press conference at the end of Day 3, "When you play overseas, it is never easy. When I started opening, I knew that all those big scores were just not going to happen. There will be a process that I'll need to follow.
"There were some small adjustments I needed to make and I was happy to do that. Most importantly, I trusted in what I was doing and I knew that the results would come even though it might take some time. It's just that you need to be patient."
In the 14 innings Rohit has played in overseas conditions this year, he has faced 60+ balls on 10 occasions. On average, he has faced approximately 92 balls per innings. That sums up how consistent he has been in getting India off to solid starts.
Even in this ongoing series against England, Rohit has faced the most number of deliveries (866) among all batsmen and that is also the most among all visiting openers in England since Murali Vijay's record of 1054 deliveries in 2014.
Rohit's batting template in this series has been quite similar to that of Vijay in that 2014 tour — be patient, leave the balls outside off and put away the deliveries in your zone to the boundary.
According to CricViz, Rohit left 13% of the total number of deliveries he faced on the way to his century at The Oval. That's the highest percentage of leaves recorded in any of his centuries in Test cricket so far.
England bowled in extremely good channels to Rohit and kept challenging him continuously. As stated by CricViz once again, more than 80% of the deliveries they bowled to him were in the channel outside off or in line with the stumps. But he batted equally well and stood like a Wall in front of them.
A double ton looked quite likely considering the way he was playing but he was ultimately undone while trying to pull a slow delivery from Robinson that didn't bounce enough. Rohit would have liked to bat longer and contribute even more but his knock of 127 is still extremely important in the context of this match. It's now up to the Indian middle-order and the bowlers to ensure that Rohit's fabulous effort doesn't go in vain.
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