There have been a few players in the Indian team who have found a place in the playing XI despite their poor form. Indian Vice-Captain Rohit Sharma surely tops the list. No, he is extremely talented and the two ODI double hundreds are the testimony to that but there have been several occasions when Ajinkya Rahane could have been played instead of an out-of-form Rohit. For example, in the ongoing series against New Zealand, Rohit was dismissed with scores of 20 and 7 but still was picked ahead of Rahane for the decider game in Kanpur. However, India turned out to be fortunate that their opener mend his shaky form right when the team wanted him to.
New Zealand bowlers, especially the right and left-arm combination pace duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee have always been clear with their strategy of attacking the Indian batsmen with their pace and bounce. While Boult caught Rohit in his weakness against a left-armers, Southee trapped the Mumbai batsman by making a great use of Pune pitch’s bounce. Rohit was more than desperate to justify his selection in the final match because another failure would have raised direct criticisms of why ignore Rahane for a shaky formed- Rohit.
Kane Williamson won the toss and opted to field first in the second decider match New Zealand and India were about to play in two years. With the way the two teams had faired in the last two matches, an early prediction would not be of any help. Rohit was on the strike to face the first ball from Southee. The very first delivery was a short ball and Rohit blocked it with an ease. The Indian openers took a couple of runs before Southee played the short ball card again. This time the pacer gave enough width and Rohit on the other end was ready to punish it. Short balls with a good room are the kind of deliveries Rohit like and Southee offered it on the plate to him and Rohit lashed it over the point for his first boundary of the day.
Purnima – Full moon.
Rohit Sharma – Full talent.
— Keh Ke Peheno (@coolfunnytshirt) October 29, 2017
From there on, New Zealand fast bowlers, Southee, Boult, Adam Milne and Colin de Grandhomme kept on bowling outside off to the Indian batsmen, especially to Rohit, in an attempt to get outside edges. However, their effort one after the other failed as Rohit was more alert than ever as he looked to be on a mission to score runs, no matter what. There have been many Indian players who have struggled against short balls in limited-overs and that includes their best batsman Virat Kohli too.
The batsmen who have problems against short deliveries do not involve the name of Rohit. New Zealanders seemed to have gone wrong in their homework; Rohit is one of the best players of the short ball. A pull shot is always under his sleeves when a short ball is bowled at him. Even on Sunday, out of the 12 fours he hit against New Zealand, nine came off short balls. The visitors, for some reason, did not learn a lesson when Rohit gave a sharp treatment to every short ball they bowled but even then the bowlers continued to fire short balls at him.
The Making Of Rohit Sharma- The Hitman pic.twitter.com/iTFK5jcBGR
— Yash (@imyash19) October 29, 2017
Last year when New Zealand toured India, Boult dismissed Rohit twice in the three-ODI series. Mohammad Amir has troubled Rohit in the past few occasions and Mustafizur Rehman’s spell against Rohit in all the three ODIs in Bangladesh in 2015 was literally an exposer of Rohit’s weakness. Rohit, whose shortcoming against left-arm pacers are not hidden anymore, came up with altogether a different performance against Boult. In Kanpur’s ODI, Rohit hardly put a foot wrong in his 230-run second wicket stand with Kohli. Out of the 230 runs, the opener contributed 131 runs off just 121 balls. A player who dominates a player like Kohli with the bat does not exist many in the current era.
Rohit needed 106 deliveries to reach the triple digits; it was his fifth ODI hundred of 2017 and 15th ton of his ODI career. Only Kohli with six centuries is ahead of him this year in the runs charts. Since Rohit has played eight ODIs less than Kohli in 2017 and still has five hundreds is something commendable.
A century by Rohit Sharma is always an occasion because there are few better looking batsmen than him in the game. This has been a treat.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 29, 2017
With 15 ODI centuries under his belt, Rohit has drawn level with Virender Sehwag. Only three Indians – Sachin Tendulkar (49), Kohli (32) and Sourav Ganguly (22) – have more ODI hundreds. He was designated as India’s full-time opener in 2013 and since then it is his 13th ODI hundred and is third, only behind Kohli (19) and Hashim Amla (16).
Rohit, along with 12 boundaries, hit two sixes in the final ODI on Sunday and with that, he has now recorded 150 big hits in his ODI career. He needed only 165 innings to reach the feat, the second fastest to do so behind Pakistani legend Shahid Afridi who smashed 150 sixes in 160 innings. Overall, Rohit is the 12th batsman to hit 150 sixes in ODIs and the fifth among Indians. He’s hit 127 sixes since he began opening in 2013. No other player has hit more sixes in this period.
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) October 29, 2017
There have been so many innings in Rohit’s career where he has gone berserk with boundaries flowing; risk was always involved. However, the third ODI against New Zealand in Kanpur witnessed a more careful Rohit who was determined to not throw away his wicket. He was dismissed because he was tad tired then after having faced 137 deliveries in hot conditions of Kanpur. If Rohit continues to keep his game as responsible as this one, India will always have a solution to their opening woes in limited-overs and this will be crucial as the ICC Cricket World Cup is hardly two years away now.