Why did Rohit Sharma lose his way and form? Why does he find himself in the quagmire that he is in right now? In order to answer the aforesaid we will have to find answers to the following question first. Why is Virat Kohli on the ascendency, well set to become the mainstay of the Indian batting and of course well on his way to being appointed the next Captain of Team India?
Well, there is no one answer. These 2 young bucks; one a genuine contender to the throne (heir apparent shall we say) and the other a pretender (I know I sound really harsh) are 2 completely different human beings as far as the eye can and cannot see. Virat the brasher, edgier, more flamboyant, demonstrative of the two has with time learned to harness the unbounded energy and aggression into what can only be seen as a perennial source of confidence and control. Rohit on the other hand has always been much more laid back, restrained, languid which are all good qualities but in the same vein has also at times seemed almost lackadaisical and “out of the zone” and has failed to motivate himself to greater things let alone catapult himself to the kind of success and results that Virat seems to have been enjoying. That doesn’t mean that Rohit needs to suddenly start copycatting Virat’s approach or even get a tatoo or two to be able to taste sustained success. This would only be a recipe for disaster. Rohit is extremely gifted (as acknowledged by all and sundry) but he also needs to carve out his own identity using the gifts of nature that he has been a beneficiary of combined with grit, hard work and an cavernous appetite for success (one quality that he would do well to borrow from Virat).
I loved watching Mark Waugh bat, field and bowl; heck even stand in the slips! He had an elegance about him that was without peer. The stance at the batting crease, the majestic back lift, the copybook drives, the slip catching technique and even the part time off spin were all “a feast for the eyes as well as the soul”. All of the above, while scoring in excess of 8000 runs each in both tests and ODI’s at an average of 40 runs every time he stepped out onto the turf wielding the willow. The reason I mention Mark Waugh is simply because Rohit Sharma has so much in common with him especially when it comes to temperament and demeanor. Both ooze style and class, both goldmines in terms of raw batting talent, both phlegmatic in the most exciting of situations and most importantly both seem to have the extra bit of time even against the fastest bowlers in world cricket; a quality long considered by cricketing pundits and ex-greats to be the discerning trait between good and great batsmen.
Alas! That is where the similarities end. Rohit obviously doesn’t have the sheer weight of 16000 international runs to firmly anchor his place amongst the cricketing pantheon and understandably so yet. His fledgling career has only begun and he sure has time to make his mark and if his skills are anything to go by he could surpass Mark Waugh’s accomplishments by the proverbial country mile.
But, he is not going to do any of that unless he plays for India and starts scoring runs in heaps (Virat is busy doing just that)!! He has been dropped form the test squad and don’t think he will be picked for the upcoming ODI series as well as there are many hungrier contemporaries gunning for his spot (Manoj Tiwary, Pujara et.al.). He has been given a very long rope to hang with by the team management and the selectors (the right thing to do; although some would say a bit too long at the expense of others) but unfortunately he simply has run out of rope. Just consider this: He made his ODI debut in 2007 and he hasn’t made his test debut yet and we are nearing the end of 2012. A real shame for a player of his caliber and craft!!
He looks like a lost soul fighting a battle with no strategy and no conviction and simply swinging away hoping to vanquish the demons that mess with his mind and torment his soul. I really feel for him; I really do. Although, I like very much what Kohli is and his disposition on and off the field, I don’t want Rohit to merely ape his aggresion hoping that would somehow miraculously reverse his fortunes and transform him into a champion batter. On the contrary, I want Rohit to study Mark Waugh as they are so similar in the talent they possed yet so different in the method of its application. I’ve talked about the similarities above and now let’s delve into what sets them apart. For all the great endowments of nature that Mark Waugh was blessed with he had an equally great work ethic and sense of discipline. He was supremely fit both physically as well as mentally (pretty much a common feature with all Australian players of the past couple of decades). He worked extremely hard off the field which translated into the performances on the field. Rohit’s fitness is nowhere close to Dhoni’s (6 years his senior!) let alone Virat and Waugh. He needs to work on his physical fitness and get in fighting fit shape (needs to be nimble) as it is an well acknowledged fact in sports science that the one of the salient building blocks for mental fortitude is physical fitness.The other aspect which is by far the most important of all is developing the quality of putting an exorbitantly high price on one’s wicket. Mark Waugh did it and so have all the greatest batsmen to have played this great game of cricket. Rohit has much too often flattered to deceive. He has consistently failed to demonstrate the kind of patience and shot selection that needs to be practiced in order to strike gold. He needs to perhaps take a leaf out of Hashim Amla’s playbook in this context as there is no better example in world cricket than Amla for the kind of mental discipline, fortitude and the high price he puts on his wickets.Therefore, Rohit needs to go back to playing domestic cricket immediately and concentrate on raking up humongous scores which will undeniably build his self-belief back up but whilst doing so he needs to also remind himself every now and then that competitive sport demands one to be physically and mentally “on point” and this can only happen if he stays disciplined and puts in the hard yards both on and off the field.
Many comparisons have been drawn between Virat and Rohit which is only valid as they are contemporaries and much has been penned eulogizing Virat’s exploits and successes and bemoaning Rohit’s trials and failures. By all accounts, Virat will only go from strength to strength from this point on as it looks as if the young man has his priorities straight and also has the work ethic to boot. His temperament and application are works in progress and if the tea leaves could be read then both these will pass muster with flying colors. Rohit on the other hand probably is grappling with the ugliest phase in his fledgling international career. He needs to do all of what has been prescribed above and maybe much more but he needs to also solemnly resolve that his talent should not dictate the way he goes about collecting runs (as his class will always be on display in the way he hits his shots) rather it should be dictated by but his hunger for runs (needs better shot selection) and passion to amass cricketing laurels. Maybe, he should after all look to learn a thing or two from Virat especially with the praise I’ve inadvertently showered on him! He needs to pick up a common trait from all the players that I’ve alluded to in this piece (Waugh, Amla, Dhoni, Kohli). He needs to become a fighter!