How Rohit Sharma Has Made This World Cup His Own
Rohit Sharma’s cricketing journey is a story of two halves. From his debut in 2007 till 2009, he played 41 ODIs averaging only 23.72 in the interim. With just four fifties, the Mumbaikar had failed to live up to his billing as one of the most talented players in domestic circuit. Though he fared slightly better in 2010 to end with an average of 38.76 – figures that were aided by his twin hundreds against Zimbabwe – his efforts were not enough to seal him a spot in the World Cup team for 2011.
In an interview, Sharma’s coach Dinesh Lad went on to state how the ouster helped Sharma refocus and energise his energy back towards the game.
"Rohit started off well and scored two hundreds against Zimbabwe. After that, because of fame and money, he got diverted. He was not looking after his cricket and he was dropped from the 2011 World Cup.”
It was only in 2013 when his dedication bore fruit.
Starring as the captain of Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League to hand his franchise their first ever title, to making an immediate impact whilst opening the innings in the Champions Trophy at England, Sharma’s career trajectory was on an upward climb. His double century later that year against Australia further stamped his position in the team, and there was no looking back. From 2013, Sharma has averaged more than 50 in every calendar year, with his average reading 71.83 and 73.57 in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
From converting only 22% of his fifties into a hundred before 2016 to playing with maturity thereafter, converting a whopping 51% of his fifties into a triple digits, Sharma has emerged as an integral member of the Indian team in the past few years. His contributions, then, at the top of the order in the World Cup 2019 was always going to be crucial
Fortune Favours The Brave, and Sharma Latches On
With 544 runs, four tons and one fifty in this ICC World Cup thus far, Sharma has been on a rampage averaging 90 in seven innings at a strike rate of 96.96. Yes, he has been dropped when he was on single digits against South Africa, Australia, England and then against Bangladesh, but his ability to grasp onto his lifelines and carry on to get a big knock needs to be applauded. He ended with 122, 57, 102 and 104 in the four games respectively.
With India’s ODI plan built on the strength of their openers, Shikhar Dhawan and Sharma had been handing India with solid starts at the top. Since the last World Cup, the duo of Dhawan and Sharma had managed to score an average of 56.20 runs in every game in the format – the most by any team. Dhawan’s absence, then, was always going to be a big loss for the Men in Blue. With KL Rahul’s false shot percentage in the powerplay overs standing at 16.5, it was certain that Sharma would have to play with more responsibility. And that is exactly what he has done.
Against the arch-rivals, Sharma made full use of the back of a length deliveries to finish with 140 – his second ton in the tournament, after his unbeaten 122 against the Proteas in India’s World Cup opener.
He did have two setbacks against Afghanistan and West Indies, but managed to display his skills in a tough game against England on 30 June. With Jofra Archer firing cannons at the Indian opening duo and with Chris Woakes troubling them with the pacey deliveries, the Indian run chase stuttered as they could manage only 28 for the loss of Rahul’s wicket in the first ten overs.
However, displaying maturity, the Mumbai player hung in there patiently to see off the spell from Archer and Woakes and finally erupted in the 12th over of the innings as he first cleared a length delivery from Mark Wood for four and then pulled a short ball towards the boundary. He watched the ball like a hawk for the next seventeen deliveries before teeing off again as Adil Rashid came on to bowl. His watchful approach provided the middle order an opportunity to go after the target after a sedate start, but their inability to pace their innings as well as Sharma meant that India fell short by 31 runs.
As he got to another hundred against Bangladesh, Sharma’s ability to play according to the situation and his deep understanding of his game came to the fore once again. He punished Bangladesh for bowling loose lengths, attacked the spinners and waited for the balls to drift in too wide, too full or too straight before hitting sixes. His first 90 runs came at a strike rate of 7.3 runs per over, while his next 10 were scored at less than 4 runs an over.
By pacing his innings according to the conditions on offer and by respecting the bowler at the other end, Sharma has emerged as a smart cricketer who adapts and adjusts with ease; and India would hope that their star player can continue in the same manner in the semi-finals as well.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. She spends her hours gorging on food and blabbering nineteen to the dozen while awaiting the next Indian sporting triumph.)
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