India v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, Group B, Edgbaston June 15, 2013

Big scores continue to elude Rohit Sharma

Loose shots have contributed to Rohit Sharma's downfall on all three occasions. The sooner he adjusts to his new role as an opener, the greater the chances he will begin converting his starts
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Even Rohit Sharma would admit that it is getting embarrassing to be back in the dressing room when he could have been there in the middle converting his starts into big scores. He had started off watchfully three times in the tournament. He converted two of those to half-centuries. Against Pakistan today, he started fluently once again. But just as his innings was about to blossom into another fifty, Rohit got distracted and played a loose stroke. Like the unnecessary pull shot against South Africa. Like the unwanted push against a leg-side delivery against West Indies. And like the unfathomable urge to hit over midwicket today when India were in a commanding position.

Probably the pain of getting a start and then playing an erroneous stroke could be worse than getting a duck. At Sophia Gardens, then at The Oval and then at Edgbaston, Rohit walked back punching his gloves, cringing his eyes, shaking his head, hitting his bat on his pads, pursing his lips. It was clear how much he wanted to be in the center even as he reluctantly departed the field. He has been rightly accused in the past of throwing away his wicket. However, this tournament, Rohit has stayed hungry.

He trained hard in the nets. Even after finishing his regular batting stint he would return later to continue to take throwdowns and be the last to leave. The best music to a batsman's ears comes from middling the ball. From a distance it can seem as if a player is hitting a mallet to stroke his bat. Yet, it is the urge to get the feel that makes the exercise fascinating.

You could see the confidence he derived from those preparations in the crucial partnerships he built with Shikhar Dhawan against South Africa and then West Indies, which were the key legs in the Indian victories. In the first match Morne Morkel tested Rohit with a robust spell of fast bowling, firing in short-pitched deliveries at an aggressive pace.

Rohit looked uncomfortable at times, was even hit on the box once, folded into two on another occasion while trying to fend the white shell that was climbing high and fast towards his head. But Rohit knew the key was to leave the ball. What also helped was an understanding he had with Dhawan as both men showed the keenness to keep rotating the strike.

The time he has to play his shots, the fact that he has all the shots in the book make Rohit a dangerous batsman once he gets his eye in. Over the years in the IPL, he has tended to take pressure positively, understanding when exactly to go for the big one. So even if India were scoring at a slow rate in the initial ten overs, he did not show any desperation. In fact, in the first two matches, Rohit had started slowly compared to Dhawan, yet accelerated effortlessly to reach the half-century mark before his partner. But what he has not been able to do is to get to three figures like Dhawan managed in the first two matches. So why is that?

Not for the lack of courage. Probably it could be to do with his new role. Unlike Dhawan, who has primarily been a specialist opener, Rohit has played in the middle order for both India and Mumbai in first-class cricket. But his superior technique and ability to play the short ball confidently encouraged captain MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher to vault him into the opening position. With the Indian middle order looking settled, the challenge for Rohit is to adapt quickly.

Rahul Dravid, the former India captain, who performed in various positions including as an opener in ODIs, reckons Rohit needs to be flexible. "He has all the talent, he has the goods. It is a question of him now converting it and having the hunger and desire when he has in good form to actually stack them up," Dravid said on ESPNcricinfo's The Huddle on Saturday.

For now, Rohit has his captain's confidence and he is bound to get the long rope if he continues to provide confident starts. "That's the only space that we have got, where we all felt that with his talent he can really capitalise and be a good opener," Dhoni said on Friday. However, Rohit knows well that he needs to start making centuries that will finally allow him to enjoy a settled role.

Having played 90 ODIs and leading Mumbai Indians to the IPL title, Rohit, despite his young age (26), has stated assuming more responsibilities. He has seen a contemporary like Virat Kohli grow into one of the most reliable players for India. Rohit is now as close to fulfilling that role. But like his seniors have mentioned, he is the driver of his destiny.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    Rohit has to seriously correct his tendency to get far across which though enables him to play those exquisite cover drives, but gives scope for the bowlers to breach the front leg and often you will find him getting too far across to the half spinners or balls coming in from seamers which is why he ballooned one to mid wicket against Ajmal. Most of his dismissals have been brought about in a similar fashion-bowled/lbw or caught in the drive. He is more solid of the back foot when he has plenty of time.His commitment cannot be under estimated by his lazy elegance as was David Gower. You can still not bracket him as Opener for Test Cricket and not everyone is bestowed like Viru who was not an Opener to begin with.

  • POSTED BY on | June 18, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    I am sure very soon he will replace M Vijay from tests too. Good to see Rohit is performing consistently on big occasion. Rohit is toooooooo far good batsman than Vijay.

  • POSTED BY on | June 18, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    I personally think this article is a "much ado about nothing". Rohit Sharma's talent and unfulfilled potential is well documented and over emphasized in my opinion. He has just started to earn some consistency to go along with his potential and we should not be moaning the lack of an ability to convert the 50's into 100's and beyond. Lets be happy hes doing well and the big scores will surely follow.

  • POSTED BY on | June 18, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    my favorite player and best opening batsman for india in all forms of game because he not only has talent and shots but he also has immense interest and enthusiasm to play as a opener.

  • POSTED BY ramli on | June 17, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    Will Rohit be in the test team to SA? Definitely not as an opener and there are better players for the middle order (read DK) ... Rohit can come in only when somebody gets injured ... till then keep scoring in domestic log-version games

  • POSTED BY phbe3211 on | June 17, 2013, 11:22 GMT

    Rohit nd Dhawan, INDIA need one more century stand, hope rohit will make century this time :)

  • POSTED BY on | June 17, 2013, 10:08 GMT

    i think he's d best batsman of contemporary cricket, though he hasn't got stats 2 back it up. but as a viewer, he's such a joy 2 watch. i remember when i was 13 & sachin burst on international scene. he instantly connected with masses bcos of his joyous stroke play. he made his odi hundred inhis 79th match, but he was lucky 2 play test matches where he made some breath-taking centuries. Unfortunaately for rohit, he hasnt got in 2 test cricket where he really belongs. he got his chance but injured himself just b4 d toss[nagpur 08]. i think he's destined for greatness for sure. one thing which stands out for him is he doesnt get bogged down with failures & still backs himself 2 play d shots. that's d 'gladiator spirit' which most of d ppl hate bcos they care for stats.

  • POSTED BY koushik2412 on | June 17, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    my Indian squad for the IND/WI/SL tri-series. MSD(C & WK), rohit, dhawan,pujara/kohli, d.k/yuvi,raina, SIR jadeja, irfan, ashwin, mishra,b.kumar, umesh yadav, v.aaron/p. kumar, i.pandey, m.tiwary/y.pathan, uthappa.

  • POSTED BY koushik2412 on | June 17, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    rohit & dhawan must open in test matches too. This ODI squad must continue atleast till the south africa tour. rotate the fast bowlers to avoid injuries. bring ishwar pandey, parvez rasool, sandeep sharma, ambatti rayudu, mohit sharma in the mix.

  • POSTED BY on | June 17, 2013, 5:43 GMT

    Inspite of his record in last few games, I am not entirely sure Rohit has the temperament to succeed consistently in ODIs, let alone tests. He has the shots and technique/time to play both fast bowlers as well as spinners as we have seen several times in the past, but his ability to keep his mind in check (batting temperament) is unfortunately, a big question mark. Let's enjoy his batting as long as it runs well.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    Rohit has to seriously correct his tendency to get far across which though enables him to play those exquisite cover drives, but gives scope for the bowlers to breach the front leg and often you will find him getting too far across to the half spinners or balls coming in from seamers which is why he ballooned one to mid wicket against Ajmal. Most of his dismissals have been brought about in a similar fashion-bowled/lbw or caught in the drive. He is more solid of the back foot when he has plenty of time.His commitment cannot be under estimated by his lazy elegance as was David Gower. You can still not bracket him as Opener for Test Cricket and not everyone is bestowed like Viru who was not an Opener to begin with.

  • POSTED BY on | June 18, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    I am sure very soon he will replace M Vijay from tests too. Good to see Rohit is performing consistently on big occasion. Rohit is toooooooo far good batsman than Vijay.

  • POSTED BY on | June 18, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    I personally think this article is a "much ado about nothing". Rohit Sharma's talent and unfulfilled potential is well documented and over emphasized in my opinion. He has just started to earn some consistency to go along with his potential and we should not be moaning the lack of an ability to convert the 50's into 100's and beyond. Lets be happy hes doing well and the big scores will surely follow.

  • POSTED BY on | June 18, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    my favorite player and best opening batsman for india in all forms of game because he not only has talent and shots but he also has immense interest and enthusiasm to play as a opener.

  • POSTED BY ramli on | June 17, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    Will Rohit be in the test team to SA? Definitely not as an opener and there are better players for the middle order (read DK) ... Rohit can come in only when somebody gets injured ... till then keep scoring in domestic log-version games

  • POSTED BY phbe3211 on | June 17, 2013, 11:22 GMT

    Rohit nd Dhawan, INDIA need one more century stand, hope rohit will make century this time :)

  • POSTED BY on | June 17, 2013, 10:08 GMT

    i think he's d best batsman of contemporary cricket, though he hasn't got stats 2 back it up. but as a viewer, he's such a joy 2 watch. i remember when i was 13 & sachin burst on international scene. he instantly connected with masses bcos of his joyous stroke play. he made his odi hundred inhis 79th match, but he was lucky 2 play test matches where he made some breath-taking centuries. Unfortunaately for rohit, he hasnt got in 2 test cricket where he really belongs. he got his chance but injured himself just b4 d toss[nagpur 08]. i think he's destined for greatness for sure. one thing which stands out for him is he doesnt get bogged down with failures & still backs himself 2 play d shots. that's d 'gladiator spirit' which most of d ppl hate bcos they care for stats.

  • POSTED BY koushik2412 on | June 17, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    my Indian squad for the IND/WI/SL tri-series. MSD(C & WK), rohit, dhawan,pujara/kohli, d.k/yuvi,raina, SIR jadeja, irfan, ashwin, mishra,b.kumar, umesh yadav, v.aaron/p. kumar, i.pandey, m.tiwary/y.pathan, uthappa.

  • POSTED BY koushik2412 on | June 17, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    rohit & dhawan must open in test matches too. This ODI squad must continue atleast till the south africa tour. rotate the fast bowlers to avoid injuries. bring ishwar pandey, parvez rasool, sandeep sharma, ambatti rayudu, mohit sharma in the mix.

  • POSTED BY on | June 17, 2013, 5:43 GMT

    Inspite of his record in last few games, I am not entirely sure Rohit has the temperament to succeed consistently in ODIs, let alone tests. He has the shots and technique/time to play both fast bowlers as well as spinners as we have seen several times in the past, but his ability to keep his mind in check (batting temperament) is unfortunately, a big question mark. Let's enjoy his batting as long as it runs well.

  • POSTED BY Unconstitutional_PCB_Chief on | June 17, 2013, 0:42 GMT

    Without any doubt India's batting strength is visible to the follower of cricket around the Globe. In this Champion Trophy there are some additional factors that is also helping Indian batting that is; wickets are batting friendly and opposition bowling did not display any real threat so far even with the presence of Dale Steyn. On the other hand Indian bowling looked improved to a decent degree. If you combine Indian batting strength with improved bowling and fewer threats from the opposition bowling; writing is on the wall that India will win Champions Trophy 2013.

  • POSTED BY vish2020 on | June 16, 2013, 22:50 GMT

    One more time I hear Rohit, immense talent, long rope, in one sentence I will pick all my hair out. All i see when i see him is, 91 ODI's played and 31 average. That's soo many chances and nothing.. Wasted his spot for so many others to try. Even pujara is sitting at home and rohit is in england.

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | June 16, 2013, 21:38 GMT

    Dont worry ROHIT will blossom as a test player. He just needs one good innings and he will be away. Commentators and ex-cricketers have been praising him every where even on twitter. SA tests will show his true character. Lets be patient.

  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | June 16, 2013, 18:45 GMT

    First of, Rohit is no longer the most attractive or talented batsman in the team. Shikhar Dhawan is way ahead of Rohit on both fronts. So stop obsessing with Rohit. Also he doesn't play the swinging ball well. And people still expect from a 41 year old Tendulkar to do well in SA after not playing international cricket for more than 8 months. If he plays his career average in SA will come below 40.

  • POSTED BY Unmesh_cric on | June 16, 2013, 15:27 GMT

    I think this article is a bit unfair on Rohit, especially since he has been doing really well as an opener. He has already got 3 fifties from 5 games as an opener. It takes only ONE ball to get a batsman out. It is not a computer game. Sometimes the ball falls in between the fielders and sometimes it goes directly in the fielder's hand and you are out. When you are facing a ball, you only have a fraction of a second to play the shot. But after the batsman gets out, the spectators have hours to analyze his dismissal! People who have played cricket understand this. Dhawan had given chances to the opposition, but they have dropped his catches a couple of times. That's why he was able to 'convert' it into a big score. Whereas whenever Rohit has given a chance, it has been taken..as simple as that. He is playing well..do not over-analyze his dismissals and put undue pressure on him. All the best, Rohit!

  • POSTED BY CricketChat on | June 16, 2013, 13:52 GMT

    Having watched and followed Rohit since his debut, I feel it is his inability to buckle down and pace his innings once he settles down, that has been his undoing. That he has oodles of talent and more time to play shots than anyone in international cricket today is obvious. I am no prophet, but I feel he will end up being a good batsman who missed being a great one.

  • POSTED BY 3rd_umpire15 on | June 16, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    Rohit is a immensely talented batsman...for some reason he hasn't been the player that India expects him to be.but the last IPL and the first 3 matches of the CT show that he has indeed began on the journey to unleash his true potential for all to see. once that happens, the cricket books will add another legend to its pages. but he will have to guard against complacency. Good luck to him!!!

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    I think that Sharma's limited overs big scores would come automatically whenever he is being given the chance at test cricket level, to take on the responsibilty of HAVING TO make big scores for his team! I think India has taken too long to give Rohit a stint at test cricket, the format that I am sure would help to improve his concentration (which is all that he lacks) in all the other formats. I am confident that this is Rohit Sharma's problem - a player of his class should not have already played limited overs cricket for the better part of a decade and has not yet made his debut in test matches, when on different occasions, his chance was given to people of very much less ability! This does have a significant psychological effect on a player, who continues to think that he is not been fairly treated' and more times than not causes him to under perform!

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    SA series is the acid test for all these players. Only Pujara, Shikhar Dhawan and Tendulkar might come out with some success I believe. Others like Raina, Rohit, Karthik, Vijay, Dhoni and even Kohli will prove to be sitting ducks to the pace and bounce. BCCI needs to make arrangements for a 1 month training workshop before the team leaves for SA. And Dhoni himself must lead the team from the front. Spinners -Ashwin, Ojha, Jadeja need to be adequately trained/prepared to bowl on SA-like pitches as our pace options are limited.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    Not Counselling, which I feel Rohit has already got a lot of. What would actually help Rohit - media should just stop analyzing the fall of his wicket every time & converting it into the headlines. I know controversy sells, patience does not. However it is for at least the Indian component of the media to decide whether they want to selfishly make their own money out of selling their papers, channels & websites OR think of India & lay off Rohit Sharma for a while so India can have a world beating batsman. Before Rohit - Vishy, Gower, Richards et al used to get out to balls that did not deserver their wickets - they were so good that they looked capable of handling whatever came their way. The only difference - the fall of their wicket did not generate an article & blog every time. They were therefore shielded from this unnecessary pressure that the media is putting on Rohit.

  • POSTED BY Rajeshj on | June 16, 2013, 8:37 GMT

    its too early to term him a proper opener as he has opened in just three innings so far.. and that too on pitches where it wasn't too difficult to score.. he did play fluently, but still there were a few close calls and missed catches.. the other factor was the presence of Dhawan who scored quickly and there was no run-rate pressure on Rohit.. these factors would always not go in Rohit's favor all the time and so its very, very early to term him a long-term opener and above all an opener for tests too.. consistency and concentration has never been the qualities you associate with Rohit and whether he has matured enough could be proved only by time and the endless patience of BCCI..

  • POSTED BY TheOldAnalyst on | June 16, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    Rohit need counselling..and that is where he needs help, not on cricketing. A guy with all the shots in the book and equally strong on both foot (front and back) and skilled on slow and hard tracks need to be persisted and transformed, for there aren't that many around..I can't remember he being hit on the helmet in this Ct, perhaps author was referring to Mr Dhawan..Someone please feel free to correct me ..

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    Guys...he comes from the Mumbai school of batting. In Mumbai you are forgiven for getting out on zero but for not for good looking Thirties. That probably explains the grimace on getting out after setting up strong Indian scores on both occasions. A big innings is just around the corner and I am sure he doesnt need the additional attension (not a typo).

  • POSTED BY Mohd.afsar on | June 16, 2013, 7:42 GMT

    He has all the talent,now he is playing well and being aggressive..He is close to fulfilling that role reliable players for team.....

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    I think it is an overreaction, he has had 3 games and he has looked solid. We can all see how unbelievably good his technique his especially against pace.He needs a good run of games , he can only get better. From what I have seen so far, he is quite capable of opening in test matches too. Lets wait and see.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 7:30 GMT

    ah, just let him play the way he is. India has a very strong middle order, and him getting a start lays a perfect platform for them. Guys like dhoni and kholi can make 110+ runs in last 10 overs, provided wickets are in hand. Plus he is a middle order player made to open, so let him play the way he is.

  • POSTED BY monisammy on | June 16, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    I am glad that the big scores had eluded him... coz that is HIS TRUE SELF.. this guy is talented?? may be only in IPL & RANJI.. He simply does not deserve a place in this interesting indian line up.. I would rather prefer UTHAPPA, rahane, unmukt chand to partner dawan.. or even sehwag or gambir.. this guy has got enough number of opportunities.. he has been and will be a FAILURE for ever.

  • POSTED BY sweetspot on | June 16, 2013, 6:34 GMT

    The real reason Rohit has got his call of reckoning is Dinesh Karthik. It is because DK has forced his way into the middle order that Rohit had to be accommodated up at the top. DK is a good puller too, and can play the short ball quite well. India's batting cupboard is seriously brimming over.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    champion player the way he has left d balls so far just shows d responsibility he is feeling. .as far as big scores are concerned he wil get those as well. . .5 games as opener he has 3 fifties n best was 83 or 85 where he got a poor lbw decision

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 6:08 GMT

    don't over analyze please, he is playing well and being aggressive is part of the game, the pull shot in the first game was the right shot for that ball and the shot he played against pak was not a loose stroke at all, it was the right shot its just the execution was not great.

  • POSTED BY realfan on | June 16, 2013, 5:55 GMT

    @Al Minidodo Warming : dude he hasn't made test debut yet.... if you are talking about first class record, well his average is 60+.....

  • POSTED BY gopi_dhillon on | June 16, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    @ Al Minindo- that might be because he hasn't played a test yet...

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    His test record is horrible too.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    His test record is horrible too.

  • POSTED BY gopi_dhillon on | June 16, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    @ Al Minindo- that might be because he hasn't played a test yet...

  • POSTED BY realfan on | June 16, 2013, 5:55 GMT

    @Al Minidodo Warming : dude he hasn't made test debut yet.... if you are talking about first class record, well his average is 60+.....

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 6:08 GMT

    don't over analyze please, he is playing well and being aggressive is part of the game, the pull shot in the first game was the right shot for that ball and the shot he played against pak was not a loose stroke at all, it was the right shot its just the execution was not great.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    champion player the way he has left d balls so far just shows d responsibility he is feeling. .as far as big scores are concerned he wil get those as well. . .5 games as opener he has 3 fifties n best was 83 or 85 where he got a poor lbw decision

  • POSTED BY sweetspot on | June 16, 2013, 6:34 GMT

    The real reason Rohit has got his call of reckoning is Dinesh Karthik. It is because DK has forced his way into the middle order that Rohit had to be accommodated up at the top. DK is a good puller too, and can play the short ball quite well. India's batting cupboard is seriously brimming over.

  • POSTED BY monisammy on | June 16, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    I am glad that the big scores had eluded him... coz that is HIS TRUE SELF.. this guy is talented?? may be only in IPL & RANJI.. He simply does not deserve a place in this interesting indian line up.. I would rather prefer UTHAPPA, rahane, unmukt chand to partner dawan.. or even sehwag or gambir.. this guy has got enough number of opportunities.. he has been and will be a FAILURE for ever.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 7:30 GMT

    ah, just let him play the way he is. India has a very strong middle order, and him getting a start lays a perfect platform for them. Guys like dhoni and kholi can make 110+ runs in last 10 overs, provided wickets are in hand. Plus he is a middle order player made to open, so let him play the way he is.

  • POSTED BY on | June 16, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    I think it is an overreaction, he has had 3 games and he has looked solid. We can all see how unbelievably good his technique his especially against pace.He needs a good run of games , he can only get better. From what I have seen so far, he is quite capable of opening in test matches too. Lets wait and see.

  • POSTED BY Mohd.afsar on | June 16, 2013, 7:42 GMT

    He has all the talent,now he is playing well and being aggressive..He is close to fulfilling that role reliable players for team.....