The supreme talent of Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma has had a pretty good few days. On Thursday, he led his side to an eight wicket ODI romp of England in just over 40 overs, knocking up 137 of India’s 269 runs in just 114 balls, and finishing the innings unbeaten. Prior to that, his most recent time out was in the deciding third T20I, also against England, in which India were chasing an imposing 198 run total. They did it relatively comfortably in the end, in a large par thanks to Sharma’s unbeaten 100, which came off just 56 deliveries.

In total, that gives him 237 unbeaten runs in his past two outings off just 170 balls, at a strike rate of 139.4. Not a bad effort, but we shouldn’t be surprised. While Sharma can at times be frustratingly inconsistent, his talent has been evident to all those around him for a number of years and his best is as good as anyone in world cricket.

For decades, a double century in an ODI seemed like an impossible task. Sachin Tendulkar proved everyone wrong in 2010, when he posted the first one ever against South Africa. Since then, there have been five more instances of double centuries in ODI’s. Sharma has two of those, and they came within 12 months of one another. One of them was a completely ridiculous 264, 27 more runs than anyone else has ever scored in a 50-over game.

That crazy innings came against Sri Lanka in November of 2014, in Kolkata. Sharma faced his fair share of deliveries, a total of 173 before he fell on the final ball of the innings, but it’s hard to believe many batsmen in history could have done as much with them as he did. He hit 33 4’s and 9 6’s in the extraordinary knock, which, at the time, meant he owned two of the four ODI double centuries hit in history.

His other one was a measly 209 off 158 balls a year earlier against Australia, though of course it had its fair share of highlights too. He hit 12 4’s along the way, a fair way shy of the 33 he hit in his 264, but incredibly he managed 16 6’s. Unsurprisingly, India won both of these two matches. 

Those are far from his only ODI highlights. In 2016, he notched up 295 runs in his first two innings of a five match ODI series in Australia, including an unbeaten 171 in the first of them. He made 150 against South Africa a few months earlier, and 147 against New Zealand the following year. His destructive batting hasn’t been limited to home ODI’s, nor has he spared a whole lot of teams along the way.

The above innings, of course, only refer to his best performances in the 50-over form. Aside from being the only man to score multiple ODI double-centuries, his T20I century against England last week also launched him atop the leaderboard of T20I centuries, where his three sits him alongside New Zealand’s Colin Munro in first place.

One of these previous centuries came against South Africa in 2015 when he made 106 off 66 balls, but it is the second that deserves the most recognition. After Sharma himself elected to bat in their match against Sri Lanka at Indore in December 2017, Sharma came out and hit 118. Impressive, you’re probably thinking. What would you say if I told you he went out in the 13th over?

Because that’s exactly what happened. Sharma faced just 43 balls on the way to his 118, hitting 12 4’s and 10 6’s. For those of you who aren’t mathematicians, that means he hit boundaries off more balls than he didn’t within this innings. He brought up his hundred early in the 12th over, moving from 73 to 101 in just five balls. At one point it seemed a legitimate possibility that he could score a double-century in a T20I. Bear in mind that the highest score ever in this form of the game against teams which aren’t Zimbabwe is 156, by Aaron Finch in 2013. 

If Sharma had have hung around for a little longer, who knows what he would have ended up on. It’s difficult to imagine many, if any, other players in world cricket capable of doing what he did on that day. Maybe Chris Gayle, maybe Glenn Maxwell, maybe a couple of others, but even that is a big maybe. 

To go with his record-equalling three T20I’s, he also has a 97 which he scored against Ireland last month. To be the leading century maker in T20I history as well as the only man to score more than one ODI double century is testament to the incredible talent of the man, talent that is arguably as significant as any other player in the world. Clearly he is pretty well regarded now, and after a slow start to his career he has built up some pretty impressive numbers in both the shorter forms of the game. On the back of successive incredible, dominant performances against the seemingly helpless English side, now is as appropriate a time as ever to recognise the ability of one of the most entertaining batsmen we have ever seen.

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