CHENNAI: Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. Thirteen century stands and 12 fifty partnerships. All this despite both being batsmen who don’t go hammer and tongs at the top, ones who don’t take the aerial route in the powerplay and ones who are not consistent.
They don’t have strike rates of 100-plus, but average in the high forties. They are content seeing off the new ball — even on flat decks — and keep the scoreboard ticking with their ability to easily pierce the field without taking too many risks. There will still be debates on whether they are perfect, but by virtue of having 3846 runs in partnerships since the beginning of 2013, they are the second-most prolific opening pair in this time period, only behind Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock’s 3919.
Unlike some of the current openers, whose intentions are to go after the bowling from the word go, Dhawan and Rohit are different. They are content with a run a ball or even less in the powerplay. May be it has to do with a weak middle-order, which has been a common theme since the time they started batting together at the 2013 Champions Trophy. It is hard to even think where India would be without these two in ODIs. While Virat Kohli is the main man in the format, how Dhawan and Rohit time and again set up the game for the middle-order often goes understated.
They know bowlers hate bowling to them, not because they are intimidating at the top, but because they have to keep altering their lines to the left-right combination. Which is why, they frequently get to pick boundaries on the leg without much fuss.
“We look to stay for 10-15 overs and we have seen it in the past how bowlers struggle to land in the same areas (because of left-right combination). They struggle for consistency. We speak about it and how to rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard ticking. Once you bat 10 overs, you cannot throw away your wicket,” Rohit told Ravi Shastri in a chat on bcci.tv after India’s win over Pakistan on Sunday.
It is the last trait that makes them lethal. They rarely throw away the wicket once they are set, take turns to accelerate and more often than not, when one departs the other takes the lead mantle. “Once we are set, we enjoy each other’s company. When I go aggressive, he takes the back seat and when he goes for the shots, I take it easy. We have played together a lot and have a good understanding,” Dhawan said.
In between the two, they have 34 centuries. But one striking difference between them is the number of times Rohit has gone on to convert his hundreds into big ones and the way he switches to top gear after crossing the three-figure mark. While Dhawan accelerates midway through his innings, it has always been Rohit who has stayed longer after getting a start. It is because of the cushion that these two and Kohli provide that India don’t seem to be too bothered about sorting out their middle-order woes.