Rohit Sharma has a terrific conversion rate in ODIs, as four of his 15 hundreds have resulted in 150-plus scores, of which two are double hundreds. (Source: PTI)
SOMETIME IN 1996, just days after filming Iruvar, arguably Mani Ratnam’s finest film till date, a friend posed a query. “How was it like working with Mohanlal?” To which Ratnam replied: “I don’t think I would ever want to work with him again.”
His friend was surprised. “Why, what happened?” he asked. Ratnam exclaimed: “He has given such an effortless performance in this film, that I forgot that I was the director… I just sat back in awe and at times would forget to say ‘Cut’.”
Ratnam was not off the mark. Mohanlal has this unique gift to underplay emotions and his biggest gift is the innate calm and unhurried manner in which he performs in front of the camera.
If there is a contemporary batsman who has left audience in a similar sense of awe with his superlative performances, it’s Rohit Sharma. It would be highly preposterous to compare the Mumbaikar to the Malayalam superstar. But both do have one thing in common: They manage to bring out that “How the hell does he manage to do that” look from audiences and contemporaries alike. India’s captain Virat Kohli was among the latest to sport that bemused and bewildered look during his record 230-run partnership with Rohit at Kanpur’s Green Park Stadium against New Zealand on Sunday.
It was the 10th over of India’s innings and Adam Milne was brought into the attack. Out of the blue, Rohit planted his front foot and pulled Milne for a six. The beauty of that shot lay in it’s pin-point execution. The ball was around 140kmph, and Rohit just stood in his position, admiring the ball sail over the mid-wicket fence. A little later, as the cameras panned at Kohli, his bewildered look summed up pretty much everything. The India captain walked upto Rohit with his arms raised and then would begin a slow clap.
Rohit’s batting, especially in the shorter formats, exhibits a sense of nonchalance and an unhurried flair. True, he may not have reached any of those stratospheric heights in Tests, where he has been largely underwhelming.
But he has showcased all those traits while scoring those 15 ODI hundreds, each a polished gem, which has left opposition teams and audiences in disbelief. The beauty of Rohit’s batting lies in the fact that he just has that extra bit of time at his disposal, like great batsmen. Sachin Tendulkar, Mark Waugh and Inzaman-ul-Haq had that in abundance.
Calm and unhurried
It’s almost as if they could play two shots off one delivery. His Man-of-the-Match winning 147 in Kanpur had just about every shot in the book. Those exquisite back-foot punches, the delectable straight drives and the front-foot pulls. A breakdown of his knock illustrates the unhurried manner in which he goes about accelerating his innings. He reached his 50 in 52 deliveries and took 54 more to bring up his ton. But he scored the last 47 runs in just 32 balls.
Again, this was done so effortlessly that you never, for once, got the sense that he had pushed the overdrive button.
Rohit has been a rage in the shorter formats, especially in the ODIs, after his elevation as an opener. He has prospered in this role as he gets ample time to bed in before he begins to dominate attacks. Heck, he is the only batsman in ODIs to score two spectacular double hundreds.
Prolific conversion rate
Out of his 15 centuries, four are scores in excess of 150, while two are in the 140s. This means that whenever the 30-year-old gets set, he more often than not would make a century. And once he gets to that landmark, he converts them into humongous scores. The Green Park century was yet another testament to his incredible conversion rate.
For all his irresistibility and flourish in the end, Rohit’s start in Kanpur was rather tentative. Two low scores against the Kiwis was a minor blip, but in the all-important series decider, he badly wanted to make it count. But New Zealand’s new-ball bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult were his nemesis in the opening two games. “I started off cautiously because I understand the threat of Time Southee and Trent Boult with the new ball. Once the shine of the ball was gone, it was about me not making mistakes and getting out,” he said.
It was about keeping that mistake out. “So unless you make a mistake, you are not going to get out. And the most important thing about my batting was the partnership. Because once you get stuck in the partnership, it’s always difficult (for the bowlers),” Rohit said after the win in Kanpur.
He even consulted Sanjay Bangar, the assistant coach, after the twin failures in Mumbai and Pune . His interactions with Bangar helped him realise that he was playing far too much across the line in the first two ODIs. Hence, in Kanpur, he showed a fuller face of the bat and was more judicious in his shot-selection.
On Sunday, Kohli’s effervescence too clearly rubbed off on his partner. After all, the two thrive in each other’s company, and they have been involved in four 200-run stands in ODIs, the first by any pair. A reason for their success is that the two rarely get bogged down by personal milestones, instead push ahead in pursuit of achieving the team’s goals.
Virat put this in perspective during his interaction with bcci. tv. “Generally, when we play together, we don’t have to say much because we both understand where the game is going. We both think for the team, so it’s always great batting with him because you don’t have to say much. We know if we play our games then the team will benefit and we can score big runs because we both want to play long.” With Rohit’s flair and Kohli’s gumption, the duo’s 230-run stand propelled India to 337/6, which proved to be match-winning.