“Steven Smith’s records in the LOIs are still questionable and James Anderson’s overseas records are hardly inspiring. But, rather than dwelling in his superstardom, Rohit has ample opportunity to correct his numbers before the series end”.
As Rohit Sharma walked out to bat after a not so favourable Test series, he would have been more than desperate to change his fortunes in the Rainbow Nation. Coming on the back of an inspired 2017, in which he scored over 1200 runs in ODI cricket, the Mumbaikar set foot on the African shores with a sky0high reputation, one that took its time coming.
He had just scored his third double hundred in ODI cricket. He had followed it up with a century in the T20 games against Sri Lanka. A few weeks before, he had cemented his place in the Test circuit, so much so that he even shuffled the technically sound Ajinkya Rahane aside for a place in the final eleven in the whites. The last time that he had toured the nation, the series had further ended up tarnishing his image of being a world-beater and this time around, he was determined to endure that it changed.
Much has changed over the course of the four years. Rohit has risen the ranks to be one of the world’s best opening batsman. Along with Virat Kohli, he has been a consistent performer in the team’s successes and his attacking start at the top of the order has reduced much of the pressure on his other inconsistent partner. The nation started relying upon on to hand India steady starts and since the Champion’s Trophy in England in 2013, his graph has also shown an upward spiral.
But not all cricketers’ can manage to attain the sense of perfection like Sir Donald Bradman had. Even Sachin Tendulkar was criticised for his lack of runs in Indian victories and the maverick Ricky Ponting judged for his strew of low scores on the Indian pitches. Moving closer, his own skipper Kohli remains caught up in the bubble of his failures in England, even though he has vehemently stamped his aura in the cricketing realm.
A failure in South Africa
Aware of his shortcomings, with a measly average of 12.28 in the limited overs in South Africa, Rohit, keen to overturn the pathetic numbers, stood guard in the first ODI at Kingsmead. En route a comfortable 20 in 30 deliveries, which was laced with two boundaries and a six, the batsman, gave glimpses of having finally thwarted the South African challenge before he fell to a good length delivery from Morne Morkel. In a bid to smash it out of the park, Sharma ended up handing a leading edge to Quinton de Kock, but with Kohli finishing off the innings in fine fashion; hardly much was made of the failure.
In the second game, the batsman once again got off to a start, hitting 15 in 17 balls. With South Africa setting India a paltry target of 119 for a victory, the time was ripe for Rohit to make a move on and correct his failing records in the country. However, once again, he was unable to get behind a short delivery by Kagiso Rabada, who cramped the batsman up for room. With hardly any breathing space, the delivery should have ideally been left, but he had committed himself to a pull shot, which ended up scalping his wicket.
The third ODI offered a familiar story as well. However, this time he was unable to even tickle the scoring board, falling to Rabada once again in the very first over of the match. After closely surviving the fourth and the fifth balls of the innings, he finally succumbed to an outside off length ball that came sharply back in to get hold of his inside edge. As he departed, with his average in South Africa reading a measly 12.10 in 11 games, contrasted to his career average of 44.54, Rohit can take heart from the fact that the greatest players in the game have all had their demons
Steven Smith’s records in the LOIs are still questionable and James Anderson’s overseas records are hardly inspiring. But, rather than dwelling in his superstardom, Rohit has ample opportunity to correct his numbers before the series end. He has three ODIs and three T20s to prove that the records scripted to date can indeed be achieved in tough conditions as well. More than a test of his skills, the remainder of the tour remains a stern test of his mental stamina and Rohit, for once, would be hoping that he is able to stand tall.