Hitting the right note at the top of the tree

Cricket : Rohit's big tons have given India a big boost

Hitting the  right note at the top of the tree

Just before the start of the second one-day international in Indore, an interesting and yet telling piece of statistics was flashed on the television screen -- Rohit Sharma’s total score for the series till then (two T20Is and an ODI) stood at 278 whereas the rest of the Indian batsmen had a combined tally of 272.

While it was a reflection of the impact the right-hander had had on the Indian batting, the outcome of the matches, where he came up with swashbuckling hundreds, somewhat diminished the significance of those innings. It’s not often that a batsman scores a hundred in a T20 match and his team still ends up losing the match or, for that matter, a batsman hits 150 in an ODI but the rival team has the last laugh.

Rohit’s 66-ball 106 in the Dharamsala’s T20I and an even more compelling 150 (133 balls) in the first ODI in Kanpur proved inadequate as South Africa stole India’s thunder. The defeats, however, shouldn’t mask the growth of Rohit as one of the most important members of the Indian batting group in the shorter version. He is still some distance away from sealing his place in Tests, despite two big hundreds in his first two matches, but in coloured clothing he has become as indispensable as a Virat Kohli or an MS Dhoni.
Rohit assumes even more dangerous proportions if he is playing in Indian conditions though it must be stressed that two of his last three hundreds came in Australia, including the one against the hosts in Melbourne early this year.

“It is just not about batting in India but anywhere in the world… I want to keep going,” he said when asked about his success rate in India. “Being a top-order batsman, it is a responsibility to bat through the innings and get your team to a winning position. In India, obviously you play all your cricket here and you know the conditions much better than any other place in the world which is a slight advantage. You also know the outfield better and you try and make the most of it. I always try to bat as long as possible. In the past few years it has always been my effort to bat as deep as possible and get the team to a good position,” he analysed.

The one stand-out feature of Rohit’s batting has been his ability to carry on after reaching the century. The 28-year-old does take some time to kick-off but once he is set, it’s difficult to dislodge him.

The last six of his eight ODI tons have been the so-called ‘daddy’ hundreds, which stand for big centuries. The Mumbai batsman took 41 matches to get his maiden century against Zimbabwe in 2010. While his first two three-figure innings came off successive matches against the same opposition, he had to wait for another 51 matches to bring up his third century – an unbeaten 141 against Australia in Jaipur. Since then he has gone on to make five more big hundreds – 209, 264, 138, 137 and 150. It’s a trait that he has continued from his domestic cricket. One of the reasons why he was never off the selectors’ radar was his ability to churn out big hundreds whenever he was sidelined from the national side.

“After you get to a hundred you tend to relax a bit and lose your concentration a bit,” Rohit pointed out when asked about his knack for big innings. “That is the time you can challenge yourself as a batsman as to how long you can push.

“That is what I was trying to do especially on a pitch like Kanpur where we knew that it was not going to be easy for the new batsman to come and start playing shots. It was my responsibility to bat as deep as possible after getting a hundred. I didn’t want to throw it away and I am sure you guys are happy that I didn’t lose my wicket after the hundred. It has been an effort and I always wanted to bat as deep as possible,” he offered.

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