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

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

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2013, 8:59 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.

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2013, 6:07 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.

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2013, 5:45 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.

  • RAJARAMAN on June 17, 2013, 12:41 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

  • Phani on June 17, 2013, 10:22 GMT

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

  • Dummy4 on June 17, 2013, 9:08 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.

  • koushik on June 17, 2013, 9:07 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.

  • koushik on June 17, 2013, 6:41 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.

  • Dummy4 on June 17, 2013, 4:43 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.

  • Mohsin on June 16, 2013, 23:42 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.