Gaming

Rohit will look to set his SA record right | Cricket

The manner in which Rohit Sharma has gone about overcoming various odds and different conditions on way to becoming a solid all-format player has been impressive to say the least. The numbers bear testament to his class – he has played 462 international matches with 18,239 runs and 45 hundreds.

India’s Rohit Sharma during a practice session.(PTI)

However, one challenge remains – scoring runs in South Africa against the red ball. On two earlier tours in 2013-14 and 2017-18, in eight innings he averaged 15.38 with 47 as the highest score.

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The last time he played in South Africa in 2017-18, he was written off as someone who wasn’t meant for Test cricket in challenging, seaming conditions after a sequence of 1, 10, 10 and 47 with Kagiso Rabada claiming his wicket three times.

That poor run of form cost him a place for the subsequent five-Test series in England. But the batter kept his self-belief and didn’t give up. He had reacted to his exclusion with a statement on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter — “Sun will rise again tomorrow.”

In South Africa, the pitches tend to have spongy bounce, and it’s difficult to get on top of it against their tall bowlers. You can put in a disciplined effort, cover your off-stump and survive the moving ball with tight defence but when the ball rears off short of a length towards your throat, luck and quick reflexes become vital.

But, even when India played on flatter decks in the 2014 series, everyone got runs except Rohit. Pujara got a 150 in the first Test at Johannesburg, Kohli got a hundred, Rahane got a half-century and a 90 in the second Test. Rohit was out for 14 and 6 in the first Test at Johannesburg, and 0 and 25 in the second Test at the Centurion.

A brilliant batter in the white-ball format, he was just not able to figure out a way to counter the moving ball. There were flashes of brilliance, like a 72 in New Zealand but consistent scores were missing. In 2014 in England, he got one chance, in the third Test at Southampton, he lost his place again after he got out for 28.

The beauty of Rohit’s game is the unshakeable confidence he has in his ability. He is the kind of player who believes in self-analysis instead of blindly depending on coaching inputs to find out ways to get better at his game. He kept working and getting better.

When India toured South Africa again at the end of 2021, everyone was looking forward to see Rohit play as he had established his credentials against the red ball in swinging conditions by playing superbly in England (368 runs at an average of 52.57) earlier that season. But as luck would have had it, he picked up a hamstring injury and missed the series.

Now, the next two games are probably Rohit’s last chance to set the record straight in South Africa. He is now the captain as well and on the eve of the match, he sounded confident of doing well.

“As a batter, it is always a challenge to come to South Africa and perform. It is I guess the hardest place to play for batters. I look forward to that challenge, unfortunately I couldn’t be here last time around but I am quite looking forward to do whatever is required from my side, do my job (as opener) and see where it takes us,” said Rohit on the eve of the game.

CAPTAIN’S CHALLENGE

It is the first game he will be playing after the heartbreaking loss in the ODI World Cup final against Australia last month at home. To do well as batter and captain, he will have to be in the right frame of mind.

“Up until that final the way we played you expect to go further (all the way), unfortunately we couldn’t… that was the hard part for all of us,” said Rohit. “All these years we worked really hard for it, obviously there are certain things we didn’t do well in the final which obviously cost us the game. Up until then there were not many things we could point out (that) we didn’t do it right.

He added: “But obviously from a loss like that it is hard (to recover) but there is so much happening in life, so much cricket, you got to find that strength to move on. It takes time. It took time for me as well to come out of that but you got to look forward. I said it earlier as well, we got a lot of encouragement from the outside world after the final and that motivated me personally to make sure I get up and start doing my job again.”

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