Talented Mr Rohit

The Talented Mr Rohit
No Viru. No Gauti. No Sachin. No Yuvi. No hope?

India’s side for the ICC Champions Trophy is without a doubt their most lightweight entry into an ODI tournament for well over a decade, and as such, expectations are understandably tempered. Though still led by MS Dhoni, this squad is largely unrecognisable to the one that won the World Cup in 2011, with just four players surviving.

Step forward, Rohit Sharma.

Together with Virat Kohli, it’s not as if India are lacking in pedigree to replace – or rather, come close to approximating – the fabled Indian middle order of a few years ago. However, the two are pulling in opposite directions: whereas Kohli has four Test centuries and seemingly has the world at his feet, Rohit is yet to even have the chance to disappoint us in Test cricket, and has largely struggled in international cricket.

It would be facile to posture that Rohit should learn from his partner’s skills: the voracious Virat wears his heart on his sleeve, and regularly exhibits the passion that Rohit is so often accused of lacking.
However, perhaps Rohit just isn’t that type of batsman?

Rohit could do worse than look towards Hashim Amla for inspiration – though I’m sure we all could. After a shaky initial start in international cricket, where Amla’s swoon-worthy flicks would flatter to deceive as he repeatedly failed to convert (sound familiar yet?), South Africa’s opening batsman returned an altogether steelier character. Just like Rohit, Amla used to be criticized for his flakiness, and the general consensus was that while elegant and occasionally effective, he would not cut the mustard.

The key in this unlikely turnaround was simple: as a person, Amla had become calmer. He had no extraneous thoughts while at the crease, just a focus so pure that it looked as if he could be meditating.

Compare this with Rohit, who in six seasons of IPL seems to have been the prototype for how T20 can corrupt a young man’s batsmanship and clutter his mind.

Perhaps for the first time, Rohit enters an ODI series as a bona fide senior batsman, with 88 ODIs to his name. However, considering Rohit has scored less than five runs in eight of his last 10 ODI innings, and with no centuries since back-to-back efforts against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in 2010 (they remain his only two ODI centuries), the prospect of Rohit as a senior batsman must elicit deep concern.

The transition from leading Mumbai Indians to victory in the IPL to damp and cold conditions in England could not be more stark, and Rohit is likely to find the change akin to jumping from a sauna into an ice bath. By the same token, there were signs that the responsibility of captaincy hardened Rohit, and it’s not inconceivable that the responsibility of batting at no. 4 could have a similarly empowering effect.

David Gower once said: “Talent times application equals achievement.”

Rohit would do well to channel both Gower and Amla, because with a touch of steel, he could yet become India’s Renaissance Man.

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