Rohit Sharma demonstrates intent, but he has not yet scored a century.

“Ishan, yaar aapne 200 banake adolescent match nahi khela yaar!”

“Bhaiya, captain toh aap hai….”

The exchange between Rohit and Ishan Kishan at the conclusion of the first ODI against New Zealand, with Shubman Gill observing, resulted in the three players erupting into fits of laughter. However, it provided food for thought.

Was even a double-hundred insufficient for Kishan to earn at least one game in the opening position? Gill, who has been supported by Rohit throughout the Sri Lanka series, had obliterated any doubts with scores of 70, 21, 116, and 208 in his next four innings.

As things stand, Gill will join Rohit at the top of the order when the World Cup begins in October.

In a batting unit whose outlook is beginning to stabilise, the only concern is the lack of triple-digit

Next, Rohit will be active. (File)

scores alongside Rohit. The India skipper has not scored a century in 17 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) since January 2020. From 2017 to 2019, Rohit was the only player in the world to amass 18 tonnes in the format. Rohit blossomed as an all-format batsman at this time, scoring crucial runs at home and abroad while Virat Kohli struggled.

However, that seems like a long time ago as Rohit has now gone 51 matches across all three formats without scoring a century. Due to the focus on Kohli’s century drought, Rohit slipped under the radar. And the fact that there was another struggling opener in Shikhar Dhawan gave Rohit some leeway.

Former India batsman Gautam Gambhir stated, “I think we should speak to him in the same space we did when Virat didn’t score a century in the last three and a half years.” “We should be equally tough on Rohit, as 50 innings in international cricket is quite a lot,” Gambhir stated on Star Sports regarding Rohit’s recent form.

Rohit Sharma, captain of India, reacts after losing his wicket. (PTI Photo)

“It’s not that you didn’t reach a hundred in one or two series, but it is one aspect of Rohit’s game from the previous World Cup that is lacking. This time, he is in good shape and striking the ball well, but he must score. “Virat has regained his form, and Rohit needs to regain his form at least before the World Cup, as these two players would be crucial if India is to win the World Cup,” Gambhir added.

Creating the mood

Since taking over as India’s all-format captain, Rohit has not scored a century, which raises the question of whether the increased weight of responsibility is a factor. Moreover, it is also the period during which India has changed their approach to ODIs. The top order has often been criticised for their hesitation to play aggressively from the outset. Rohit has been adamant about improving this element, and he has even assumed the task of instructing the batting unit.

Rohit Sharma, captain of India, during a practise session. (PTI)

While hundreds have been lost, Rohit has increased his strike rate at the top of the order. Rohit scored 249 runs in eight One-Day Internationals at a strike rate of 114.22 in 2022, which is his greatest strike rate in any calendar year. Rohit has a strike rate of 100.57 through four innings in 2023, which is 11 runs higher than his career strike rate of 89.6. Obviously, the sample size is too tiny, but a pattern may be observed. His companion Gill, who is still acclimating to the squad, has been relieved of some pressure as a result of this adjustment. Rohit could have easily worked his singles in the second powerplay in the last two ODIs against Sri Lanka and New Zealand and accelerated in the final over. However, with only four fielders outside the ring during the second powerplay, Rohit wishes to keep the intent continuing. And in both instances where he appeared to be in control, he was ejected, attempting a powerful shot and was caught near the boundary ropes.

New Strategy
In their pursuit to become the first side to hold the ODI and T20 World Cup championships simultaneously, England have blurred the barriers between the two formats like never before. Their openers have played a crucial role in their ability to accomplish this. Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, and Alex Hales have all engaged the opposition in attack. Until recently, India’s strategy was diametrically opposed. Plan A in ODIs, where they relied heavily on their top three batsmen, was to play risk-free cricket for the first 40 overs and go all out in the final 10 overs. While it did bring tremendous success, there were games, especially in flat batting conditions, in which at least 50 to 60 runs were consistently left on the board.

Rohit Sharma batting (ICC)

However, with a robust middle order in place, India is exhibiting clear signs of altering its strategy. In his final game, in which he scored 208 runs, Gill stated that he was “itching to go for huge smashes in the middle overs,” but that he was prevented from doing so by losing wickets at regular intervals. Even then, he shown sufficient intent to continue looking for two boundaries per over.

The overall picture

Although many anticipated a high-scoring World Cup tournament in England, it was anything but. The forthcoming one in India, though, has every indication of being a run feast. There are already questions about how much impact dew will have on teams bowling second at this winter World Cup. And India’s inability to defend totals has been exacerbated by the fact that their previous strategy consistently resulted in below-average totals.

India is determining how far they can go as a batting unit by deciding to bat first in these bilateral series. Their newfound strategy not only enables them to play fearless cricket, but also forces them out of their comfort zone. In three of the last four ODIs, for a squad that is not accustomed to setting objectives, they have amassed totals of 340 runs or more. India believes that their new strategy will allow them to remove the toss out of the equation and provide bowlers with a sufficient score to defend with.

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