May 31, 2010

Has Rohit Sharma come of age finally?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Rohit Sharma, who couldn’t score a century in his first 42 One-day Internationals, has suddenly scored a couple in as many games in the ongoing three-nation series in Zimbabwe.

Sharma happens to be one of the so many enterprising young Indian batsmen to have come to the fore in the recent past but like the majority of the newcomers he has not been able to provide the comfort to the selectors to consider him a complete package.

Sharma’s talent as an explosive batsman has been beyond doubt but his application and shot selection has left a lot to be desired. He has been one of those young guys who have struggled to do justice to their talents.

He has played a few magnificent knocks under pressure in international cricket. But he has lacked the consistency to capture the imagination of the team management. He has possessed the skills as well as the temperament but he needed to put runs on the board on a regular basis to cement his place in the star-studded Indian batting line-up.

With the ‘seniors’ having been rested for the Zimbabwe series there’s an opportunity for the young guns like him, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina to prove the point that they have graduated to the next level.

Sharma appears to have grabbed the golden chance with both hands, having scored centuries in the first two outings against different oppositions. His century in the opening game against India had gone in vain but the one against Sri Lanka a couple of days later was a worthy match-winning effort.

He must sustain this form in the rest of the tournament to dispel the impression of him being just another flashy batsman. He has to convert those half centuries into centuries and make them count in order to retain his slot when the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni return to the folds.

Sharma is also a brilliant fieldsman, besides being a more than useful off-spin bowler. Most importantly he has the nerves to come to terms with the pressure-cooker situations that make him a most sought after all-round cricketer. He has been in and out of the Indian limited-overs side without playing Test cricket yet despite achieving the rare feat of scoring two hundreds in the 2008-09 Ranji Trophy final.

He had first hit the headlines in 2006 during the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka. He made his ODI debut in 2007 but it were his heroics in the inaugural World Twenty20in South Africa later the same year which got him recognized as a special talent. He was one of the architects of India’s title win. Sharma continued to impress and his couple of dashing knocks helped India win the CB Series in Australia in early 2008.

Then came the slump as he struggled for runs in his first two first-class seasons for Mumbai but he performed exceptionally well in the shortest version of the game while playing for the Deccan Chargers, who bought him over for US$750,000, during the Indian Premier League (IPL).


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