It’s almost certain that there are two Rohit Sharmas in the Indian team — one who plays in whites with the red ball in the longer format and the other one, who plays in coloured clothing with the white ball. While the former is still trying to find a way to stay relevant, the latter has started bossing the limited overs format. On a serious note, Indian cricket should thank the man who made Rohit open in ODIs, for that has changed his career forever.
He’s one of those few Indian batsmen who are comfortable against pace and bounce. In fact, he relishes both because he’s got the horizontal bat shots on both sides of the pitch off the back-foot and that’s a rare quality. I put it down to him growing up on the red-soil pitches in Mumbai as these pitches offer more bounce than any other surface in the country.
He’s fast becoming the best Indian batsman after Virat Kohli in the 50-overs format. He scored a century in the first game of 2015 and also, ended up as the highest run scorer for India in ODIs. Once again, he’s started the new year with a century and if India are to do well in 2016, it’s critical for him to continue doing well. His knock in the first ODI will be remembered as one of his finest innings, for not only did he dominate throughout the innings but also carried his bat through. The biggest improvement in his batting over the last 12 months is his ability to start briskly. There was a time when he would play 70% dot balls in the first ten overs and also, his strike-rate would hover around 60. Now, his dot ball % in the same period has come down to half and his strike-rate has shot up to 90. It’s unfortunate that his last two ODI centuries have come in a losing cause. His century against South Africa in Kanpur was the best century in that game as it was in Perth but on both occasions, it turned out to be futile.
Anyway, most cricket matches are set up by the batsmen and won by the bowlers, especially on good batting surfaces. Good batting cancels each other out on such surfaces and hence it comes to the depth in the bowling department. Once again, Indian bowling was found out on a good batting surface. The lack of wicket-taking bowlers is proving to be India’s bane. So far, whenever India needed a wicket, MS Dhoni went to R Ashwin but in Perth, he had an off-day. And in this bowling line-up, Ashwin can’t afford to have one.
While the lack of resources is a known problem, the handling of the existing resources by Dhoni left a lot to be desired. Barinder Sarn took a couple of wickets at the start but was kept out of the attack for 29 overs after his initial burst. Ashwin came to bowl only in the 18th over. And Umesh Yadav wasn’t given the new ball either. Dhoni gave an impression that he was overly concerned about what’s likely to happen in the last ten overs and that proved detrimental.
Brisbane presents India a good chance because the pitch will offer more to the bowlers and that looks like the only way to restrict this strong Australian batting.