There are only three lifelines for participants in the hugely-popular television gameshow Kaun Banega Crorepati. By contrast, the extremely rich Rohit Sharma has already been handed many lifelines; the most recent being the benevolent CoA bestowing him with a Rs 7 crore contract even while ignoring clear tell-tale signs that his 11-year international career is running out of steam.
Forget Rohit’s mediocre Test average of 17 in England, 28.83 in Australia and 15.37 in South Africa; even his limited-overs form looks anything but convincing.
In nine limited overs matches in South Africa (three T20Is and six ODIs) this season, he made a meagre 202 runs, with 115 of those coming from one innings. In other words, in eight of the nine limited overs matches Rohit had aggregated just 87 runs — a pathetic average of below 11.
Any other batsman performing so miserably would have been shown the door. In some cases even successful batsmen, like Karun Nair who made a rare Test triple hundred, were booted out of the team. But not destiny's child Rohit. He was rewarded, despite his long string of failures, with the captaincy of the Indian team. And if that was not an anomaly by itself, he was elevated to grade A+ status which, in turn, led to a massive pay hike. Thus his contracted fee was enhanced many times over, from Rs 1 crore to Rs 7 crore.
Even as jackpots go this was a shocker. A flop player was being showered with a bonanza! The attendant implied message was loud and clear: Continue in the same vein. Somebody in the set-up believed that Rohit was the cat’s whiskers and that was it!
Not surprisingly, in the first three matches of the Nidhas Trophy in Colombo, he obliged the pied pipers of BCCI with scores of 11, 17 and 0.
For long, Rohit’s lazy batting elegance was hailed as the real thing. He looked good in Indian Premier League matches on pitches where his limitations were not being excessively probed. Even otherwise IPL’s four-over quota restriction per bowler meant that troublesome bowlers could be seen off from the non-striker’s end.
Rohit’s real test came on overseas tours to England, Australia and South Africa, and against their band of bowlers. This is where he looked less convincing even against the white ball which did not lend itself to swing bowling after a couple of overs.
Tellingly, out of Rohit’s six ODI hundreds outside the sub-continent and Zimbabwe pitches, two are against Bangladesh bowling, in Birmingham and Melbourne respectively. Consequently, he has a mere three hundreds against Australia and one against South Africa on their soil. In a career spanning 180 ODIs, that’s hardly a blip.
However, on home soil he is a veritable tiger, with three double tons and many centuries to boast of.
But these substantial performances at home are poor consolation for many who believed that Rohit was a genuine batting star and could be the backbone of Indian batting on the lines of Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar of erstwhile teams.
When a young and gifted Rohit was inducted into the Indian team in 2007, it was expected that he would take some time to settle down but would later dominate the batting scene and be India’s flagbearer in all formats of the game.
However, his game either stagnated or never took off, especially in overseas conditions or against a first- rate bowling attack. In contrast, Virat Kohli, who made his international debut much later, attracted greater attention and was fast-tracked on the basis of his continued impressive showing.
Rohit has not only failed to be the top gun among India’s batsmen but is also a veritable lightweight outside the subcontinent.
In fact, he has been one of the biggest disappointments in Indian cricket. In Sri Lanka where the team was without the finishing genius of Kohli and MS Dhoni, it was expected that Rohit would step up and deliver. Instead, it was others, like Shikhar Dhawan and Manish Pandey who have batted with responsibility and battled hard to take the team home.
Rohit and the selectors must realise that it is not enough for him to come good once in 12 to 15 innings. He needs to step up and deliver at least 70 per cent of the time. Otherwise he is only an impediment to the development of a deserving youngster.
Had Rohit not been captain it is almost certain that he would have been dropped from the Indian playing eleven by now. In 16 international innings in 2018 he has crossed the 50-run mark just once —115 versus South Africa at Port Elizabeth. That should summarise the true extent of his limited utility to the team.
Had India lost on Monday, Rohit would have been pilloried from all quarters. The narrow win has let him breathe easy, yet again.