Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019 | Last Update : 10:38 AM IST

Rohit Sharma’s emulation of Don must be celebrated

THE ASIAN AGE. | R MOHAN
Published : Oct 23, 2019, 2:40 am IST
Updated : Oct 23, 2019, 2:40 am IST

Rohit Sharma has done exceedingly well in passing the Bradmanesque average of 98.22 in his home Tests.

Rohit Sharma (Photo: AFP)
 Rohit Sharma (Photo: AFP)

It’s not often that Sir Donald Bradman’s average is tested meaningfully, even if only in a tight context like batting at home. His career average of 99.94 cannot, of course be surpassed. Rohit Sharma has done exceedingly well in passing the Bradmanesque average of 98.22 in his home Tests. This means his performance is bigger than just a streak of productivity that in-form batsman do achieve. His promotion to opening the innings has been the trigger to this extraordinary assault on the Himalayan task of averaging close to hundred over any extended period of time.

The awesome figure of 99.84 is Rohit’s average in home Tests after his 212-run knock with  1,298 runs in 18 innings with six 100s and five 50s. His last nine scores in Tests in India are: 82*, 51*, 102*, 65, 50*, 176, 127, 14 and 212. He has the best home average among all batsmen with 10-plus innings, just ahead of Don Bradman’s 98.22. “I want to bat like Bradman” is the motif of the Bradman Museum in Bowral. Many have surpassed his batting average briefly, but none could possibly sustain those efforts in such a chancy game.

Rohit deserves the accolades for his sustained success as a Test opener in the short series, starting each innings against the new ball splendidly handled by Rabada and Philander (in two Tests). He batted in the only phases of the series in which the batsmen felt threatened by movement as well as a precise line of attack, even if it lasted only as long as the shine on the ball, or the strength of the bowler in trying conditions of humid Vizag and Pune.

In fact, India’s openers failed to put up a stand past the shine only in one innings and the credit for this also goes to Mayank Agarwal, as acquisitive of runs as Rohit, but with lesser potential as an aggressive batsman in the most modern mould. It did appear in periods of play when Rohit seemed set to emulate another of his ilk in Virender Sehwag, who set the gold standard for an Indian batsman with two triple centuries and a near third.

The obvious advantage batsmen like Sehwag, Rohit and Kohli wield is their ability to scorch the turf in run collection once they are ‘set’, as is the most apt cricket term that best describes a batsman who knows he ‘is in.’ These awesome run makers don’t worry too much about getting beaten early in their innings by the shiny red cherry, whose movement can always be big enough to miss the edge.

Batting is not a beauty contest. And it is certainly not so as Rohit goes hard in slashing at a wide ball and misses. The Test opener, Rohit Mk II, rebukes only himself for the rash attempt, not for letting the aesthetics drop for a while. This is essentially modern batting, aligned more to making the most when scoring opportunities appear to present themselves. The instinct to attack has become a part of their game plan.

Of course, the conversion of Rohit into a Test run machine on home soil has not come without considerable sacrifice on his part in terms of toughening up to face the bowling in the first hour when the bowlers are fresh, there is a bit of moisture under the pitch from the heavy watering in pre-Test preparation and the feet are not yet moving decisively. Only in Pune did he abandon that resolve when he reached out to a swinging delivery.

Rohit was never meant to be in the Vijay Merchant – Sunil Gavaskar school of opening the innings in the polished style of the best of Mumbai run gatherers. What Rohit offers is marvellous entertainment in the modern era, deciding in an instant to step out and loft down the ground for six in strokes of refreshing freedom that the solid openers of the past would never have permitted themselves, even when well set.

A Protea-wash would not have been possible without the openers and Virat Kohli’s appetite for prolific deeds from the crease. It would have been impossible without a bowling attack that has such balance now as to be lethal as much on standard Indian pitches as they used to selectively be on designer pitches. Why, even on a seaming green top Indian pitch, team India would have beaten this South African team, so lacking in players of such class like the ones that came ages ago it seems, with the ability  and the temperament to have beaten India in a Test series in India.

The manner in which the quicks dismantled the start of the South African innings in the second and third Tests, reducing even the doughty Elgar to grave uncertainty against the movement, has been the key to a dominating performance by Team India. The spinners were at their best on the slower pitches in the first half of the series though Shami had come into his own in the second innings of the second Test.

The quicks were a dominant force in the third Test, and all this without the presence of the battering ram Jasprit Bumrah. They made short work of completing a whitewash, a rare enough feat, and one to be celebrated heartily, more so as a whole set of bowlers made it possible, including this impressive array of Indian fast bowlers.

Tags: rohit sharma, donald bradman