“The year 2017 saw the arrival of a new and improved version of Rohit Sharma”

It is pretty difficult for a batsman to carve out his own identity in a team which has someone like Virat Kohli in its ranks. However, Rohit Sharma has done it again and again, especially if the past couple of years are considered.

Whether it was his unbeaten 124 against Sri Lanka at Pallekele, 125 against Australia at Nagpur or unbeaten 111 against Pakistan at Dubai, Rohit has shown in the last couple of years that he has the game to take India through tricky situations even if Kohli fails or he is absent.

He almost pulled up a similar act once again at the SCG against Australia on Saturday. His 133 off 129 deliveries came when India were reduced to 4 for 3 while chasing a challenging target of 289 runs. Although his innings couldn’t get India over the line due to lack of proper support from other batsmen, it showed that Kohli is not the only player that India can bank on during stiff run chases. In fact, Rohit’s innings of 133 at the SCG once again highlighted his transformation into an extraordinary limited overs format batsman like Kohli, one who could bat as well during chases as he does while batting first.

Rohit made his international debut even before Kohli but he started excelling as a batsman only when he was promoted to open the innings in Champions Trophy 2013. By then, Kohli had already established himself as one of the finest batsmen of this generation. But Rohit hasn’t looked back since then and his performance curve has only gone upwards.

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He has gone on performing shoulder to shoulder with Kohli ever since. Both have been involved in numerous match winning partnerships and Rohit has often outscored Kohli on multiple occasions. It is quite hard to believe that there can be a batsman with skills close to Kohli’s level in limited overs cricket but if you want to see one, you won’t have to look far away. It is right there in Rohit Sharma.

However, despite all his exploits, the one area in which he always failed to match Kohli’s level was his performance while chasing. Till 2016, Rohit’s average while chasing read a mere 38.81 as compared to that of Kohli’s mammoth 63.52.

Rohit’s average of 44.81 while batting first, till 2016, was slightly better than that of Kohli’s 41.57. But there was a wide disparity between their chasing prowesses as summed up by the numbers mentioned before.

So, this was one area which always stopped us from placing Rohit on the same pedestal as that of Kohli as far as limited overs cricket was concerned. He always had the skill and temperament to pace his innings according to the needs of the situation as shown in multiple instances while batting first. But he failed to do so more often than not in most run chases as he was still learning to deal with that pressure.

However, the year 2017 saw the arrival of a new and improved version of Rohit Sharma who was equally good while batting first and chasing.

Since 2017, no other batsman has scored more runs in run chases than Kohli and Rohit. While the former has scored 1474 runs at an astonishing average of 92.12, the latter hasn’t been far behind with 1460 runs to his name at an equally good average of 81.11.

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In fact, if the numbers since 2018 are considered, it would be seen that no other batsman has scored more runs while chasing than Rohit’s 852. Virat is only second with 690 runs to his name. Moreover, Rohit’s average of 106.50 and 102.89 while doing so has been something to stare at.

People can criticize Rohit as much as they want due to all the shortcomings he has. But what he does despite having those shortcomings has to be lauded. His weakness against the moving new ball in limited overs cricket is a widely discussed topic. But the way he weathered the storm out today against Australia, who had three top-order Indian batsmen on the mat with the movement they were getting, showed that he is improving day by day to overcome all his weaknesses.

So, it can be said that Rohit has finally attained the chasing Nirvana and India are now blessed to have not only one but two such extraordinary batsmen in Kohli and Rohit. If one fails, the other one can always be expected to save India from the blushes,  just as Rohit almost did on Saturday. And nobody is unfamiliar with the destruction they can cause if both click together.

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