Beyond the Blues June 7, 2010

India need Rohit Sharma to live up to his promise

Has Rohit Sharma finally arrived?

Has Rohit Sharma finally arrived? That's the question people and pundits ask every time Rohit plays one of his trademark brilliant knocks - mostly in the IPL. But a good knock, or a couple of good knocks, are always followed by a series of low scores and the same people who hailed him start baying for his blood. To be fair to the critics, they're absolutely right in expecting talent to be complimented by performances on a consistent basis.

We all know Rohit is a special talent and seems to have what it takes to succeed at the highest level. But sadly he's let his contemporaries steal a march over him. For way too long he's remained a future prospect, showing only trailers of what, perhaps, could be in store. In my humble opinion, talent without performances is as good or bad as having no talent at all.

Now with two consecutive centuries in the tri-series in Zimbabwe, he has settled the debate for a while. Yes, the runs came against lesser teams but his nemesis was never the opposition but the challenge within. He always looked at ease against the best of bowlers, pace and spinners alike, both at the international level and the IPL. He seems to have more time than the rest to tackle rapid pace and the technical know-how to handle quality spin.

I spoke to a current international bowler recently and he was all praise for Rohit. According to him, Rohit is blessed with a sense of timing and has more time than most people in the current Indian team. Coming from a successful international bowler, the observation carried a lot of weight. Ever wondered what exactly is having more time? Cricket, apart from bowling, is mostly about receiving. You have to be at the right place at the right time to receive the ball and then react appropriately. If you're even a micro-second late, everything goes awry. Rohit gets into the right positions quickly to execute shots perfectly, which is why he's never off-balance or hurried.

It was never the talent which was questioned but the temperament. His shot selection has often left a lot to be desired and caused his downfall more often than wicket-taking deliveries. Another incident involving another international fast bowler comes to mind. The bowler in question was starting his new spell and bowled a loosener which was deposited into the stands straight over his head. As expected the bowler cursed himself, only it wasn't exactly for bowling a loosener but for forgetting the strength of the man on the opposite end. He knew Rohit would pounce on anything loose regardless of it being the start of a new spell. That's a big compliment coming from an international bowler.

This shows that Rohit has an almost Sehwag-like faith in his abilities and gives little importance to what is being dished out to him. But since every coin has two sides, this has often led to his downfall. His exceptional ability to hit even the good balls takes him ahead of himself and he tries one too many. Result-- a long walk back to the pavilion. Hopefully he's cracked the code for the Men in Blue need him, as much as he needs them, to make a formidable test team even after the 'fab four' retire.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here