By Vijay Lokapally :
DO WE romanticise the performer? Yes. If the subject happens to be a certain Rohit Sharma. He is from the old school, and he also represents everything that is modern about classic batsmanship. Test Match. One-Day. T20. All formats come to him naturally. Without wanting to compromise on any aspect of the art. His transformation has been remarkable and compelling in every term. Rohit is the darling of the captain and the team. Remember, he always had some secret admirers in the media too but now they can express their love for his cricket in the open. Rohit, the one who was said to be good only at home, has come to silence his detractors most effectively with his performance at The Oval as India relived the glorious moments of 1971 when they tamed England in their own backyard. “Rohit never makes dull runs,” remarked former India spinner Murali Kartik. “He was mistaken to be a non-serious cricketer but I have found him to be one of the serious thinkers in the game.
The way he has coped with the bounce and swing in the last two seasons has been so impressive.” The languid style has been Rohit’s asset really. A right-handed David Gower — so calm, assured, unhurried, stylish. When coach Dinesh Lad saw him first 21 years ago, Rohit was more of a bowler. “One day I saw him striking the ball in the nets. I realised my mistake and immediately marked him as a batsman,” recalled Lad. Rohit has only grown since that eventful afternoon in Mumbai. “The Don of Borivali,” was a name given by Yuvraj Singh. To be fair, Rohit has assumed a greater role in the team. He has come to counter the conditions and that has allowed him to dictate the bowlers too. No more ‘flirting’ outside off. What has established Rohit as one of the premier batsmen of the world is his understanding of the intricate art of batting on different surfaces.
Former Test cricketer Gursharan Singh has been a batting coach with the Board for two decades now and he is convinced Rohit is a flawless performer at the crease. “I just have not seen him make a hurried movement.” When batting great Sunil Gavaskar insists that temperament more than talent counts in international cricket one can assume he has someone like Rohit in mind. Batting looks ridiculously easy and profoundly sublime when Rohit comes on strike. For those looking for technical brilliance, he is an object model — the initial movement is firm, the soft-hand and tightened defence a highlight, the choice of shots uncompromisingly in tune with the demand of the situation. The cover drive has been curtailed. The pull shot continues to tempt him but now self-disciplined as we saw at The Oval. There is literally not one hurried movement. He has beautifully embraced the responsibility of opening the innings and wisely cut out the compulsive shots. Most strokes are in front and that makes the bowlers toil harder.
The incoming ball rarely hustles him and importantly he has mastered the skill of leaving the ball. He is the most compact side-on batsman in world cricket today. He is untroubled by pace and is a champion against the spinners. A perfect batsman for any captain to own. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Rohit Sharma’s batsmanship is poetry in motion. Sit back and enjoy the symphony he creates with the bat in his hand. Even the bowlers fall into a trance. The purists relish Rohit in all formats of the game and that is his greatest distinction. There is not a dull moment when Rohit is on strike. n (The author is a veteran sports journalist with four books on cricket to his credit)