July 3, 2013

Viva Rohit Sharma

His consistently assured batting versus the short ball at the top of the innings made for pleasant viewing in the Champions Trophy

Rohit Sharma: not shy against the short stuff © Associated Press

At times I hope to be able to watch a show that features the world's bowlers in discussion about the effect batsmen have on them and their bowling. About specifics, in detail. And cross-check those against impressions I have formed watching play unfold on television. A bit like the Allan Donald, Wasim Akram, Alec Stewart ESPNcricinfo video series on bowlers and batsmen, but with an extended bowlers' panel - a sort of round table. I wonder what bowlers would have had to say about bowling to the Indians in the Champions Trophy. Especially right at the top of the innings.

For now, I'll take the liberty of theorising on the topic.

This Champions Trophy was, from an Indian point of view, about the precise interventions of Ravindra Jadeja, the fearless flair of Shikhar Dhawan, and the team's vibrancy in the field. Virat Kohli's brilliance was evident in patches, so were R Ashwin's variety and Bhuvneshwar Kumar's control. To my mind, though, some of the standout shots of the tournament came from Rohit Sharma. (There was one blistering pull from Kohli as well.) Rohit's presence at the top of the order has been mentioned, in a partnership kind of way - as a foil to the simmering strokeplay of Dhawan, but I thought that Rohit had the most impact on the bowling upfront.

Back to those shots. South Africa in the tournament opener, seemed hell-bent on bouncing India out of the game. It is another matter that they didn't appear to have a back-up plan. Granted, the pitches for the Champions Trophy weren't the bounciest or the quickest around by any stretch. But really, the sure-footed way Rohit dealt with a bunch of the early short balls was what pushed them back.

Morne Morkel bounced once; Rohit, arcing back slightly from that initial forward push, put the shortish ball away behind square. Just a short-arm jab. This after being hit in the midriff a couple of balls before. Rory Kleinveldt pitched short, really short, and heading down leg; Rohit played a rasping pull away through square. Ryan McLaren went short next; this time Rohit played the pull with care, rising with the ball and rolling his wrists with a certain amount of deliberation to keep the ball down. Each time, what impressed was the amount of time he had when he played the shot, and that he was in total control.

Next to Kemar Roach. A couple of short, widish balls were put away behind point with a flourish, in a manner reminiscent of the Rohit of five years ago, in the Commonwealth Bank series in Australia. Square cuts and drives off the faster bowlers seem to stick in your mind longer, especially if these aren't off rank short balls.

And then to what was the toughest opening attack on view in the tournament, especially given the relative absence of Dale Steyn. The pacy swing of Junaid Khan and the steepling bounce of Mohammad Irfan: every other opening batting pair seemed to be fairly ill at ease against them.

At the start of Irfan's third over, Rohit, moving forward despite the obvious threat of bounce, steered a square drive a bit off the outer half of the bat through point. The next ball, a rapid bouncer, was taken off his shoulder, behind square. Again, the shot modulated to the bowler's length and bounce, and to the field. A pick-up-and-drop over the man stationed just behind square. The next ball was short and quick once again; this time Rohit dropped his wrists and let it pass. Often, once the batsman's reaction to the quick bowler's bouncer is seen (not least by the bowler) to be unhurried and in control, the rest seems easy in comparison.

Indian batsmen in the immediate aftermath of the Gavaskar-Amarnath era, with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar and Sanjay Manjrekar, appeared to freeze against the short ball. Later in the piece, Rahul Dravid came along. He pulled, did not hook often, and appeared wholly unfussed in the face of the short ball. Then Tendulkar appeared to put the hook away in cold storage after a compelling beginning. In the late '90s came VVS Laxman and his silken brushstrokes through midwicket. Virender Sehwag, having carved a swathe for himself in the point and cover area, got bowlers to fret enough about a line that was supposed to have been met by a conservative block or a leave that they weren't in enough of an attacking frame of mind to be forthcoming with the bouncer. MS Dhoni down the order prefers to attack the short ball most times, and is usually comfortable with it. Generally, though, from an Indian batting point of view, the hook and other attacking options against the quick, short ball directed at the body made only very sporadic appearances through the '90s till now.

This is why Rohit's consistently assured, attacking batting versus the short ball at the top of the innings made for especially pleasant viewing. His shot-making has always had striking similarities with Mark Waugh's. The comparisons seem all the more relevant now with his promotion to opener in ODIs. Let's hope the similarities don't end there.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sam on July 6, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    Rohit may be India's Carl Hooper. Hopefully he is not but is certainly turning out that way. He has a bit of weakness against swing bowling though which many overlook. Doesn't move his feet well and goes at the ball with hard hands.

  • Varnendra on July 5, 2013, 11:39 GMT

    Have you guys forgotten the last SA series? In the ODI's Rohit didn't have time to play his shots. In the last England tour he got struck by a short ball to be sent home. It is possible he has improved but you have to wait and see. Even if he has improved still he can go to his usual naps during an innings; laid back chap. He can't build a long innings.

  • Dummy4 on July 5, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    To make Rohit more consistent selectors should give him a chance in Tests also...

  • Pravin on July 5, 2013, 9:19 GMT


    Initially itself Yuvraj , Sehwag etc. were recognized as talents and they performed too. But once they took their place for granted their performance dropped. After being dropped Yuvi(2003) and Sehwag (2007), they came back hungrier and much improved players (temperament wise).

    The problem with Rohit has been that he has never been totally sidelined and the same 'taking their place for granted' syndrome never let him become hungry. In the 'relaxed elegance' attitude he's has taken the Relaxed part too seriously. Let him spend one year in Ranji, let him realize what donning Indian colors mean, the privileged position he's in. Let him stare at the possibility that he might not be picked again.Its for his own good.

    Believe me that's the only way he'll solve his temperament issues, and only after making a comeback will his actualize his potential. Without going through that grind...these 7 unsuccessful years will soon become a decade without any substantial contributions.

  • Pravin on July 5, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    @Tuhinanshu Singh - Your arguments are so flawed, it's unnecessary to even answer, but here goes. 1. Agreed Failures are part of life, but a person's life. Why should the Indian team suffer. What crime have the players who waste away their life in Ranji committed, who are not even given a chance to fail. 2. Agreed Sachin took 79 matches for his century, but he played some stupendous 80's at brisk pace in scores below 250, which were better than centuries proving his worth many a times. 3. Yes it hurts me when one player blocks one position for so long and others are not even given one chance. 4. You can never be the MLA,MP of your area or the PM. Does that mean you should not complain? If I prove that you can never be where I am will you take your words back? 5. In 7 yeas all you can come up with is one 66? chetan sharma has a century in ODIs, should we play him. 6. people like me stop talent, I didn't know I am a selector. 7. How many more years shld he be given 10? pls publish

  • Dummy4 on July 5, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    I am also the fan of Rhohit After SACHIN, India's only player who attacks the short balls is none other than SACHIN. Sachin leaves the short when he needs to keep the wicket or to defend status, when he is in aggressive he destroys the short ball Please watch the videos Sachin Playing in W.I in earlier 2000's and against McGraw, Pollock, Caddick. But Dravid ,Lakshman is good to defend the short balls not better in attacking mode. Even Dhoni is good only in fuller length balls not in Short balls

  • Dummy4 on July 5, 2013, 2:09 GMT

    Rohit sharma should have been picked all the way back during end of 2008, after the retirement of Ganguly. In fact him and kholi scored centuries against Australia in the practice match prior to the test series, with Rohit looking much more assured.. But the selectors picked Yuvraj instead. But I still can't believe that Suresh Raina made his test debut before the likes of Rohit Sharma, Pujara and Kholi. In tests the selectors were very unfair on him. After retirement of Laxman surely this meant Rohit Sharma should have made his debut.

  • KISH on July 4, 2013, 11:42 GMT

    @ king_julien, you are right in some ways. But, what we have to understand is, cricket is a confidence game. Ravi Jadeja is a prime example of that. If a player been given utmost confidence by his captain, anyone with some talent can come good after sometime. To be fair on Rohit , unfortunately, he was never been given a confident run by any captains. He was given opportunities in patches. In last Australian tour, he should have played the second test onwards. But, Kumble wanted to stick to his senior pros, VVS and Dravid. Now, Rohit will get some good opportunities and hopefully, he will show his mettle. KKD Karthik is another player who never got a proper backing from any captains. Even now, I think Dhoni is only just happy to keep him in the side just so that he can take a break now and then.

  • victoria on July 4, 2013, 11:21 GMT

    I don't believe it, but I have heard liquor bars chit chat saying that they believe Rohit Sharma has not yet been given a chance at test cricket because every time he went to bat he showed up Tendulkar with terms of "TIME TO PLAY HIS SHOTS" and "SHEER CLASS"! And it was so noticable that all the experts almost exaggerated about Rohits talent! Hence, India cricket was not going to allow "This little boy" any opportunity to dethrone India's so called batting God so quickly and dramatically! Hence, I totallt agree with Anand Palwankar that Rohit arrived a bit too early!

  • Dummy4 on July 4, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    @sandy - what about 1992 - when he came as an 18 year old. Or 1999 where he was man of series against mcgrath, warne, gillespee, lee. Its a shame people still call sachin a flat track bully, or a minnow basher.

  • No featured comments at the moment.