Rohit Sharma has a habit of making the short formats of cricket revolve around his individual brilliance. Especially in the last two weeks, he has been compelling to watch, as if he had taken over the baton from Virat Kohli, who dazzled in the Test against Sri Lanka at Feroz Shah Kotla (scoring 243 and 50) before leaving for Italy to get married. Riding a wave, Rohit will be expected to continue his brilliance at the Wankhede Stadium - his home ground - in the third and final Twenty20 against Sri Lanka on Sunday.
Rohit was at ease adjusting to a spot in the Test team after 13 months. He opened his account with a classic off-side stroke off off-spinner Dilruwan Perera; the confident shot dispelled any trace of pressure. He continued to bat with panache for a little over three hours to score a remarkable, unconquered 102; the knock showed the ambition to excel in a format of the game he may be somewhat unlucky not to establish permanency.
Once he was elevated to the helm of affairs in the absence of Kohli, he became menacing with the bat to the extent of being brutal. This he demonstrated in Mohali while racing to his third double-century in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), and on Friday in Indore, where he scored a 35-ball Twenty20 century . This was the joint-fastest century (alongside David Miller) in the 634-match history of Twenty20 Internationals.
The Indian team is blessed with some outstanding batsmen across all formats who are determined to put a price on their wicket. But what distinguishes the likes of Kohli and Sharma is that they do not let go mediocre bowling unpunished. Sharma demonstrated this by taking an attacking posture for 75 per cent of the balls he faced in Indore. After being invited to bat first, Sharma executed shots at his whim to leave someone like K. L. Rahul, an equally gifted stroke player and hitter, in awe at the other end.
There are only five batsmen in the T20Is who possess a scoring rate of more than eight per over, with a benchmark of 60 innings. Shahid Afridi has a strike rate of 9.05, Brendon McCullum 8.17, David Warner 8.35, AB de Villiers and Sharma have 8.11 each. But among Indians, Kohli has a superior scoring rate of 8.27 in 51 innings and Yuvraj Singh, 8.18 in 51 innings. In the present team, though, Rahul has a scoring rate of 9.05, but he has played only 10 innings.
Twenty20s is all about numbers and fun that heighten the entertainment index and Sharma played his part by touching a high of 91.53 per cent on the boundary shot count (12x4s and 10x6s) in his 43-ball 118 at the Holkar Stadium. The strike-rate was an astonishing 274.42. Australia’s Aaron Finch had struck 25 boundary shots (11x4s and 14x6s) against England at Rose Bowl in 2013, but it accounted for only 82.05 per cent of the 156 he had scored, while Glenn Maxwell struck 23 boundary shots (14x4s, 9x6s) against Sri Lanka at Pallekele last year, accounting for only 75.86 per cent of the unbeaten 145.
Sharma has a fearless approach; his sheer timing reveals his exemplary wrist-work and bat speed. One particular shot - a flick off his front leg - captures the coordination of his mind, footwork and finesse with his hands. Players like Sharma are unique to Twenty20s and are great crowd pullers.
- India: Rohit Sharma (c), K. L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, M. S. Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Jaydev Unadkat, Deepak Hooda, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Siraj, Basil Thampi.
- Sri Lanka: Thisara Perera (c), Upul Tharanga, Kusal Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dasun Shanaka, Chaturanga de Silva, Sachith Pathirana, Dananjaya de Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Dusmantha Chameera.
- Match starts at 7 p.m.
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