Every time I see Rohit Sharma batting, I end up asking myself this question “What is so different about his batting style? What sets him apart from other world class batsmen?” Every single time! Like a lot of other Indians, I grew up watching a lot of cricket; I grew up watching batsmen like Sachin Tandulkar, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakara etc. and many more. But Rohit Sharma’s style is different. What’s the difference?
This time while watching the highlights of the match against the Netherlands, it struck me. I realized something interesting, I believe many people would have observed it way before me but I realized it for the first time. Just to make sure that I was not jumping to a conclusion I watched more of his games, his best innings and ended up using my entire weekend watching Rohit Sharma’s betting performances.
Coincidently, it was exactly fifteen years ago, T20 world cup in South Africa, where he played his first ever T20 international. September 20, 2007 India was playing against South Africa. MS Dhoni won the toss and chose to Bat first in that Semifinal. All was good till the fourth over after which the three of Indian top order batsmen, Gautam Gambhir, Dinesh Kartik and Virender Sehwag were sent back to the pavilion in close succession leading India in great pressure with mere 33 runs at the loss of three wickets. Then stepped in a young right handed batsman who has never looked back ever since.
Hit-man Sharma, has been a leading run scorer for Team India ever since, in fact he now has a cult of his own. His fans! Rohit Sharma!! If you go by his fans, he is by far the world’s greatest and most skilled batsman. The quantity of runs he has scored so far, is a living testimony for the claims. No one can refute them.
That match he scored his first half century, 50 runs off 40 deliveries with 9 boundaries, 7 fours and 2 sixes. Have a look at the highlights:
15 years later, he is still playing for the country, although, had a bad day against South Africa this time but did score another half century just a game before against the Netherlands; 53 off 39 balls with 4 fours and 3 sixes i.e. 7 boundaries in total. Its like his performance has not changed a bit in those 15 years. What a gem!!
In the half century that he struck against the Netherlands, he scored a total of 7 boundaries out of which none of them were played with a straight bat. He slogged one over deep mid wicket, three over deep square and played three cuts over third man. Not even a single boundary with a straight bat, no drives straight or cover, no flicks. Just look the ball hit the ball. And two drop catches. Have a look at the highlights and check for yourself.
This is not just one off game. It was exactly the same since the very beginning. In his very first game against South Africa where he scored 50 using 9 boundaries, he scored one boundary with a straight bat, one out of nine; a cover drive and everything else was pure hard hitting.
This is not just limited to T20 games, in One Day Internationals, its even worse. I looked up some of his best batting performances, for instance 171 against Australia in 2016 where he hit 20 boundaries and there were 9 boundaries as a result of hard core slogging targeting the mid wicket and Square Leg area, four boundaries were a result of top or bottom edges, three cross cuts targeting the third man area and only one a straight drive just next to the non striker. Absolutely zero boundaries coming in the cover-extra- cover-midoff region. You could literally count 20 boundaries in this highlight and check if I am making things up.
Another big one where he scored 124 against Australia, here he hit 14 boundaries with four of them coming out of the edges, only one boundary was a cover drive with a straight bat and one flick. Rest all the boundaries came with a cross bat hard hitting. Once again, you can have a look at the highlights, you can count the boundaries and see where these were hit and how.
Unlike some other batsmen like Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, Kumar Sangakara, Saurav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, or even his contemporary Virat Kohli, and many more he does not play with a straight bat and completely ignores the Cover, Extra Cover and Mid Off regions on the ground. For all these players, majority of their boundaries come as a result of driving the ball on the off side (covers, extra covers and mid on, or even point) and that’s why you see more fielders on the off side than on the leg side as a general rule.
He finds driving the ball be it straight drive or cover drive as a complete waste of time and probably that’s why he seldom use these classic shots. He prefers playing with a cross bat, be it a pull or a hook over the square leg or slogging i.e. look the ball hit the ball over mid on or sometimes snatching clever boundaries using the pace of the ball and the edge of the bat. Sometimes these top and bottom edges lead to boundaries and sometimes the ball finds either the stumps or a fielder. And as we all know, cricket is game of chance, you can’t blame anyone for that. Can you?
This is one of the reasons why even though he had been a part of international cricket for more than 15 years, he hit his first overseas hundred in a test match in 2021, eight years after he debuted in test cricket in 2013; he scored 127 off 256 balls on September 2, 2021.
Also read: Unpredictable Cricket
And he is not the only one in the team. This is also, one of the reasons why Indian batting line up collapses like a house of cards when there is a quality bowling. The South African bowling a few days ago was not even deadly or quick. The commentators kept on saying, that was a quick delivery, but when you look at the speed it was 130 kmph. Indian Cricketing standards are going south at a great speed. Just imagine if 130 is quick, how would 155 look like. India batsmen will dance. Pakistan comes up with one bowler and Indian team gets humiliated like anything. Its not that Pakistan is doing any better, they are worse then us for different reasons. They lost against Zimbabwe. They also have similar players, if it works it works, if it does not work even a domestic cricket team will win against the national team.
Senior players, coaches etc. already know this, for instance Sunil Gavaskar recently claimed that Rohit Sharma has widened the Range of his shots, but they won’t dare to criticize even in the politest way possible. Why? Would you like to be mercilessly trolled by millions on internet? Yeah that’s exactly why! Moreover, I just read a news headline stating that one cricket player’s fan killed another cricket player’s fan, because one said something bad about the other’s idle. Tolerance at its best!! Quantity, be it in runs or in followers is winning against the quality. Doesn’t matter how they come!
Also read: The (in)significant fans
Anyways, lets forget about the cricket quality. The interesting thing is the Mauka-Mauka; India won against the rival Pakistan some how, that’s what matters.
Thanks for reading!!