If it was Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in Tests, it is Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in ODIs. The common strand is that the former was overshadowed by the latter. Since the time Rohit was pushed up to open the batting in ODIs in 2013, he has been a different player. If not for Kohli, Rohit could have staked his claim to being the best batsman in the ODI format. His consistency and ability to rack up the big scores put him well ahead of other openers. Over the years, his Test performances haven't mirrored his ODI exploits, but his recent form in the 50-over format has been so impressive that it has won him yet another opportunity to prove his credentials in Test cricket. A more detailed look at his ODI numbers show just how extraordinary Rohit has been over the last five years.
At the end of his 100th ODI, Rohit had scored 2480 runs, averaging 31.79, and had scored two centuries. In comparison, Tendulkar had 3146 runs at an average of 36.58, with four centuries.
Since then, Rohit's average has increased rapidly, and is currently 47.37 with 21 centuries in 192 matches. At the same juncture, Tendulkar had 6872 runs at an average of 40.66 with 16 centuries. Since his 100th ODI, he has scored 4911 runs at an average of 62.96 and a strike rate of 96.71, with 19 centuries and as many fifties. Only Kohli has been more prolific, scoring 5692 runs at an average of 72.05 at a strike rate of 98.22, with 23 centuries and 25 fifties.
Currently, Rohit has 21 hundreds in 186 innings; only three batsmen have scored more centuries in 186 or fewer ODI innings.
In this period, Rohit has also ticked all the boxes by proving himself all around the world, and in pressure situations while chasing high scores. Fifteen of his 19 centuries have resulted in wins.
Too good to be second
The turning point in Rohit's ODI career came when he was sent to open the batting, just before the 2013 Champions Trophy. His success as an opener is evident from his average of 59.64 - the highest for any opener in this period. The 19 centuries he has scored are four more than those of his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan, and Hashim Amla. Rohit has averaged in excess of 60 in the last three consecutive years, and has maintained a strike-rate of just under a run a ball in the last two years. Since 2017, Rohit has scored 11 centuries and averages a staggering 70.62.
In any other era, these numbers would have been way ahead of the rest. However, his captain is going through such a dominant run that Rohit has to be satisfied with second position. Interestingly, though, there is one area in which Rohit is twice as good as Kohli, and that's the sixes category. Rohit is now only behind MS Dhoni in the list of all time six-hitters for India.
Building an innings
One of the big reasons for Rohit's success has been his ability to read the situation and boss the ODI format. His role at the top of the order is well defined: play out the new ball and not lose his wicket in the first 10 to 15 overs. He then slowly builds on his start, and his wonderful ball-striking ability means he usually makes up for his relatively slow starts. Rohit's strike-rate across phases of the innings increases steadily, and, if he bats deep into an innings, he usually finishes at well over a run a ball. In conversations about death-overs batting in limited overs, the names that usually come up are those of MS Dhoni, AB De Villiers and Andre Russell, but Rohit's strike rate of 209.3 is the highest for any player in ODIs (minimum 30 balls faced) in the last five years.
In this period, Rohit has made seven 150-plus scores, which is two more than any other batsman. Tendulkar and David Warner have five each. All of Rohit's 150-plus scores have come in this period, and he has been India's top-scorer in an innings in each calendar year since 2013.
With India now having a top-five averaging around 50 or more, and two modern ODI greats in the top three, Rohit will hope to extend his form till the World Cup next year, and beyond. Along the way, he will also hope that some of the ODI form rubs off in Test cricket as well.