Rohit Sharma made his One-Day Internationals (ODI) debut more than a year ahead of Virat Kohli. Although, the latter didn’t take long to hit the right chords, the former took almost an eternity to justify his potential. However, now that Rohit has finally arrived, he is catching up fast with Kohli’s ODI exploits. And 2017 is the year that has seen him perform at par with Kohli.
“I would say this year has been the best year for me as a cricketer,” the stand-in Indian skipper Rohit Sharma said after he powered India to a series-levelling 141-run victory over Sri Lanka with a power-packed knock of an unbeaten 208, the third double ton of his career, in the second ODI in Mohali.
The 30-year-old Mumbai batsman has 1286 runs to his name in 20 ODIs this year at an average of 75.64. He averages only 1.2 runs less than Kohli who has scored 1460 runs in 26 ODIs at an average of 76.84 this year.
While the marginal 1.2-run difference in their averages might still prove Kohli the superior performer between the two once again, things will get clearer if we consider the situations in which they have scored those runs.
Since Rohit is an opener, it makes his job with the bat far more difficult. Most of the times, Kohli has walked out to bat when the openers have batted out the first 10 or 20 overs.
While Kohli has garnered most of his runs during the middle and final overs of the innings, Rohit has scored his runs both during the tough initial overs and also towards the middle and final overs. So, Rohit’s exploits with the bat sound more impressive as compared to Kohli's, considering the general situations in which they bat.
The careers of both these batsmen can be divided into two phases — one till the end of 2012, and another since 2013. A comparison of their statistics will show how Rohit lagged behind while Kohli romped to greatness by the end of 2012.
Rohit had 1978 runs to his name in 86 matches at an average of 29.73 during the period between his debut and the year 2012. He scored just two centuries and 11 fifties in his first five years in ODI cricket. However, Kohli established himself as a legend-in-making as he garnered 3886 runs in 91 matches at an average of 49.87 by the end of 2012. A tally of 13 centuries and 21 fifties during that period highlighted his temperament to play long, match-winning knocks.
Rohit’s career underwent a drastic change since 2013 as he smashed 4439 runs in 87 matches at an average of 58.75. His statistics since 2013 are very much comparable to Kohli who has scored 5144 runs in 111 matches at an average of 63.44 during this period. Rohit also scored three double tons during this period, emerging as one of the world's most dangerous limited-overs' batsman since 2013.
So, a player who was struggling to live up to the expectations of the fans and the pundits till 2012, found his way once he started opening the innings since 2013. And he has never looked back since then.
Kohli had a fabulous outing in 2016, averaging 92.37 in 10 matches. Although, Rohit’s average of 62.66 in the same number of matches looked pretty solid, it was still nowhere near to that of Kohli’s superhuman numbers.
However, it has really been 2017 that has helped him to catch up with Kohli’s exploits. Both have scored runs at the same incredible rate and have left opposition gasping for breath. The numbers speak for itself and so do the impact of the performances on the matches.
The Rohit Sharma who used to give his wicket away easily is no longer there. And oppositions who focussed more on Kohli had to turn their attention to Sharma as well. He looks to be in the best phase of his career temperamentally. His timing looks better than ever and so does his ability to read games. Now that he has finally done justice to his potential, Rohit must continue in the same vein, delivering the devastating one-two punches along with Kohli and knocking down oppositions with brute force.