Decoding the method to Rohit Sharma's powerplay madness in World Cup 2023 | Cricket - Hindustan Times

Decoding the method to Rohit Sharma's powerplay madness in World Cup 2023

Nov 19, 2023 04:51 AM IST

Rohit is the classic case of restricting one’s aggression to cricket alone.

It takes a certain confidence, a certain courage of conviction, a certain self-belief, to commit to a cause. Any cause. It takes strength of character and the passion to rise above and beyond the call of duty to stick to that commitment.

India's captain Rohit Sharma watches the ball after playing a shot (AFP)
India's captain Rohit Sharma watches the ball after playing a shot (AFP)

That’s what Rohit Sharma has done throughout the World Cup. In the year leading up to the competition, the right-handed opener took it upon himself to lead his team’s charge in every sense of the term. With one match, Sunday’s final against Australia, remaining in the 2023 edition, Rohit has delivered in grand style, playing the role of the enforcer with such aplomb that he has made life easier for the batters that have followed.

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Rohit has a problem against left-arm pacers, especially those who duck the ball into the right-handers, we tut-tutted. It’s impossible that he wasn’t unaware of the whispers, just as it is unlikely that he decided to show us all. But what does he do? He takes the first ball from Shaheen Shah Afridi, the Pakistani ace, from leg-stump and whips it over mid-wicket for four. Nonchalantly. As if he were having a gentle net session. He lays into David Willey, the crack English quick, with one four and two sixes in the third over of the game, charging and letting the Englishmen know who the boss was. He tears Trent Boult, the experienced Kiwi, to shreds in the semifinal with an assault for the ages, either dancing down the track and driving aerially through the straight field or sitting deep in his crease and playing his signature hooks and pulls with aplomb. If you were a neutral, you gasped in wonderment; if you were an Indian fan, you roared unabashedly, wanting to cuddle the cuddliest individual in this Indian team.

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Rohit is the classic case of restricting one’s aggression to cricket alone. Not for him the snarls and the growls that others wear like a cloak. Not for him the cuss words that escape other lips with impunity. Rohit conserves his energy for more meaningful statements. Such as the ones that have flowed from his scything willow with such dramatic regularity over the last month and a half.

A sixth-ball duck against Australia in the opener in Chennai was no more than a false alarm. Since then, Rohit has been in gob-smacking form; his sequence of scores since Chennai read 131, 86, 48, 46, 87, 4, 40, 61, 47. One way of looking at it is that he got into the 40s four times without kicking on, that he twice entered the 80s and didn’t go on to three-figures. But the other, truer assessment is that he hasn’t looked for individual milestones because of his commitment to the attacking brand of cricket that he has outlined for his team and that he wants to espouse through example.

Rohit has been in beast mode in the Powerplays, showcasing his fearless, fearsome intent in the first 10 overs. Ten innings have yielded 354 runs off 266 deliveries, at an electric strike-rate of 133. In that period alone, he has smashed 42 fours and 21 sixes. Despite the high risks he has been unafraid of taking with an eye on the greater good, Rohit is the fifth highest scorer across the tournament, with 550 runs at an average of 55 and an overall strike-rate of 124.15. These are unreal, surreal numbers that perhaps have been lost in the euphoria of Virat Kohli’s three hundreds and the mid-innings pyrotechnics of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul, but these are the numbers which have allowed Nos. 3, 4 and 5 to bat with the freedom and the authority they have enjoyed.

India have sewn up most games in the two Powerplays, Rohit doing the damage with the bat and the fast bowlers striking repeated blows inside the first ten overs. While the quicks have hunted as a pack, Rohit has ploughed a lone furrow, allowing Shubman Gill to bat at his pace at a time when he is still feeling the aftereffects of dengue which forced him to miss the first two matches. Rohit has taken down celebrated attacks, torn game plans to pieces, cracked games open. Sometimes with a smile on his face, often with a song in his heart. Rohit isn’t just India’s captain, he is their leader, their inspiration, their talisman. But there still is unfinished business to attend to on Sunday, and for a man still to reconcile to not being a part of the title-winning team of 2011, that and that alone matters.

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