Match Analysis

Rohit's Superman-like, six-hitting transformation

No other batsman has come close to the rate at which Rohit Sharma has cleared the boundary over the last four years. On Sunday, his stand-and-deliver style helped him dominate Australia

ESPNcricinfo Ltd

ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The batsman charged out of his crease, making room to free the arms on a ground where one of the boundaries looks 50m long. The bowler spotted the danger and adjusted, bowling back of a length and at the body. Rohit Sharma still hit it for a six so big it went out of the ground.
A measure of how stunning that shot was came from the crowd. They didn't bellow - as they usually do when India are batting. They went "whoaa" and simply lost their voice for a while.
Rohit didn't even bat an eyelid. He accepted a punch from his batting partner and returned to the crease. The sequence of events after that is fun to watch. He stands on leg stump, indulges in a small trigger movement, his front foot inching forward straight down the line, and then a moment's stillness. It is in that time that he decides whether or not to become the monster who has hit 113 sixes in 79 innings since January 2013. No one has even come close to the rate at which he has cleared the boundary in this spell of four years.
The fact that Rohit leads the world's elite in this aspect of batting might seem unsurprising. But in his first five years as an ODI player he hit only 23 sixes in 81 innings. This isn't a case of simple self improvement. It is the equivalent of Clark Kent slipping into a phone booth and the entire Justice League coming out.
Looking at Rohit now, it seems bizarre that he could ever have struggled to loft the ball the required distance. He has a near-perfect technique to pull it off. There is that front-foot press, but he never lets it go across towards off stump. That would leave him with less room, which would then mean he can't have a free swing of the bat. That swing is Rohit's greatest asset. It is where he gets his timing, and it is his timing that he relies on to hit sixes.
AB de Villiers, over several coaching videos on a website called Cricket Yard, spoke of how he imagines he is in a box while batting so that he doesn't let his hands wander away from his body. He does that to ensure he keeps the ball down. The opposite applies to six-hitting. You need leverage. And Rohit can repeatedly get all that he will ever need making very little effort, as he showed during his 71 off 62 balls on Sunday.
Admittedly, Australia could have done better to stop the carnage. With the bat swing being key to Rohit's success, they could have messed with it by bowling more slower balls. In fact, during the change of innings, century-maker Aaron Finch pointedly mentioned how when the Indian bowlers changed their pace, he found it hard to get to them away. A batsman who relies on hand-eye coordination, ball-sense and timing needs to keep his shape, and a well-executed slower ball will make sure he can't.
There are other times, too, that Rohit's stand-and-deliver style has landed him in trouble - when he has to tackle pitches that offer sideways movement, for example. A good length ball outside off is just right to lift, but if it should swing in any direction the stumps or the outside edge come into play. This is why he still hasn't cracked India's Test XI. But it is difficult to argue with the method in limited-overs cricket. Simply look at the numbers. Rohit is fifth on India's list of most prolific six-hitters - 136 in 160 innings. Five clear of his nearest rival, and bonafide legend, Virender Sehwag, who, and here's the kicker, needed 235 innings to reach 131 sixes.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo