Hitman Rohit making most of his lifelines

BRAVE AND BEAUTIFUL: Rohit Sharma has been in sensational form this World Cup, scoring a record-equalling four centuries. REUTERS

Brave and beautiful – that’s one way of summing up Rohit Sharma’s batting. There are few sights in cricket that fill you with more joy than the right-hander in full flow.

Watching him bat, as well as he did on Tuesday against Bangladesh, is like watching Rolls-Royce in motion – graceful, grand and gorgeous. As he essayed one exquisite shot after another, you went through a gamut of emotions -- you marvelled at the genius of his strokes and were left breathless at his ability to manufacture shots that seemed impossible.

“You would be a fool to be tempted to bat like Rohit because he is in a different class,” said K L Rahul. Having seen the stylish batsman in full flow from the best seat possible in the stadium – at the non-striker’s end – he was spot on in his assessment of his senior mate’s batting.

With record-equaling four centuries in a single edition and currently topping the list of most run-makers (544 from seven innings), Rohit has stolen the march over his skipper and World No 1 batsman Virat Kohli. Where Kohli has been unable to convert any of his four half-centuries into a hundred, a rare blip (for want of better expression), Rohit has translated five of his fifties into three-figure scores to form the backbone of India’s batting in the tournament.

The runs have come in different conditions, diverse situations and against a variety of bowling attacks, showcasing the right-hander’s ability to adapt, absorb pressure and shoulder responsibility. While he is no stranger to big scores, having already slammed 25 centuries prior to Tuesday’s bruising 104 against Bangladesh here, the consistency he has shown in the tournament has been remarkable even by his own high standards.

That he is only the second Indian batsman after Sachin Tendulkar to amass 500 or more runs in a single World Cup, reflects the magnitude of his achievement. He is batting at a different level and his hunger for runs appears insatiable even after scores of 122 n.o., 57, 140, 1, 18, 102 & 104.

“He is on a different planet altogether when he gets going,” Rahul continued. “He made it look really easy (against Bangladesh) when really it wasn’t anything of that kind. The pitch was two-paced, up and down, not coming on to the bat, but from the way he played you would not have known.

“We expect it from him, and he is delivering every time. To bat with him is really easy because he takes the pressure off you. He keeps getting the boundaries and the scoreboard keeps ticking, I just have to keep there with him. It is great fun.”

Rohit batted out of his character against South Africa in the opening match for his first century of the event after sussing up the bowler-friendly conditions. He curbed his attacking instincts, let go of his ego and guided India home with a century that Kohli termed Rohit’s “best ever.”

His second century was against Pakistan in conditions where batting wasn’t the most difficult job. But given the significance of the match and the high emotions involved, conquering conditions was the least of the challenges there.   

Then came his third century against hosts England, who probably had the best attack on that kind of pitch. The five-pronged pace attack bowled perfect lines, lengths and angles suited for the dimension of the ground. Rohit struggled initially in his innings. There was no timing in his strokes, and he was often rushed into his shots. He could have got out anytime, but he hung on and found his rhythm for another big score.

England knew, so long as Rohit was in the crease, win for them was a distant dream. Tuesday’s ton was perhaps the most gratifying one for the batsman for more than one reason – not only did it help India put on a winning total and seal their place in the semifinal, it was a typical Rohit innings where he called the shots rather than be dictated.

Another distinguishing feature of his batting has been his success rate after getting a reprieve. In seven innings, the 32-year-old has been dropped five times in seven innings, and each time he has made the most of “life.” According to cricinfo, the Mumbai batsman has gone on to add 369 of his total 548 runs after being dropped.

“I was lucky (but) fortune favours the brave,” said Rohit after the match against Bangladesh after letting off at nine by Tamim Iqbal.

Brave indeed, but hardly brutal.

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