On the day when Rohit Sharma scored the latest of his three ODI double hundreds, cricket statistician The Cricket Prof tweeted that the India opener hit a six every 125 balls he faced in the first six years of his one-day career. In the five years since, Sharma has hit a six, on average, every 35 balls faced.
Sharma hasn’t just transformed into a better ODI batsman, he’s transmuted into a one-day monster. His batting graph after mid-2013 has numerous skyscrapers including three double hundreds. Since 2013, he’s scored 14 hundreds and only one of the 14 ended at less than 120 runs.
So, it doesn’t sound like Sharma was bragging when he told The Times of India in an interview, “I can tell you this with conviction: Every time I’ve scored a hundred and gotten out, it has only been due to my mistake. Try and hit through the line and it all works out fine.”
“After you score a century, it’s highly unlikely that bowlers will look to get you out as much as they’ll try to curb the run flow. It’s only if you commit a mistake that you’ll be walking back,” he said.
“Like in my case, after I reach a hundred, a potential outswinger is not what’s worrying me. I’m entering a zone from where only my mistake will allow me to fail, unless of course if you’re facing someone of the calibre of a Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis or even Mitchell Starc and Dale Steyn who can do things with the ball.”
Sharma revealed his approach of constructing his innings. There are three phases to a Rohit Sharma innings.
“I take my time in the first 10 overs, acquire a sense of the occasion,” he said. “From over number 11, I begin to realise if I’m ready to free my arms a bit and between then and over number 30, I like to build something.
“Multiple factors play a role in these stages and if I’ve moved smoothly up to over number 35, then that’s where I’d call myself dangerous for the opposition. This doesn’t happen every time. But at least inside my mind, this is how I approach an ODI innings.”
Sharma said he isn’t bothered about starting slow as long as he finishes well. Of late, his finishes have been flourishing. He revealed that he, on occasions, watches the big knocks he’s played for “understanding tactics” or “for fun”.
“[Watching previous innings] certainly helps,” he said. “The Mohali double hundred, for instance, was a different kind of innings for me. It was purely tactical because I just played the entire innings with the field that was set for me. It made me realise that the more you work with your own bowlers, the easier it gets to figure out the opposition’s bowling strategy. Because you’re thinking similarly.”
Facing the ‘best in the world’
Sharma is prepping for one of his toughest battles in South Africa and he acknowledged that the bowling attack he’s going to face is the “best in the world.”
“England and Australia can also unleash a great variety at home. But this South African attack is different and certainly the most lethal. It’s not a one-dimensional attack. They have variety, experience and different skill levels.”
“[Kagiso] Rabada is a tall guy who can hit the deck hard. Morne Morkel is the same. Dale Steyn has the experience to use the new and the old ball. Vernon Philander is so dangerous in South Africa’s home conditions. He keeps bowling that length, never gives anything easy. It is the most challenging of all challenging attacks we’ll be facing in the next one year.”