There are some who say that Rohit Sharma lacks drive. He is too laid-back, too lost in his own world, maybe even too talented.
But then many of those people don't know what it means to get into a Mumbai local in rush hour with a full cricket kit; many of them also don't know what it means to reach practice two hours late and then try to explain to your coach that the delay was because your kit bag felt out of the door -- the train's door that you were hanging out of and neither do they know the hurt that a player can feel when he gets injured while warming up on the morning of his debut Test.
You couldn't do any of that without drive or talent. The turnaround has been a gradual process. He has got into the team multiple times and also been dropped almost as many times... this despite earning the trust of skipper MS Dhoni. It's just that Rohit's drive is sometimes just not as apparent as we have come to expect from a professional sportsman.
But his performance last night -- in the IPL final against the Chennai Super Kings -- left little doubt of his aspirations. He walked in after his team had just lost Parthiv Patel and then proceeded to play in a manner that showed that he wasn't overawed by the occasion or the opponent.
We have seen a lot of people score 50 runs off 20-odd balls in the last few years but to do it in a final against a team full of wily veterans (CSK have made six of the eight finals) tells us that he is nowhere near his peak. You never know what's behind the next hill but in Rohit's case, one wants to wait and see.
It might still be too early to say whether he has what it takes to be a great skipper at international level -- but after two seasons as skipper of Mumbai Indians, there is no denying the potential. The bigger the game, the more you want your senior players to stand up and Rohit did just that.
In 16 games, he made 482 runs for Mumbai Indians at an average of 34.42 and a strike-rate of 144.74. But also look at the different roles he has had to play for the team -- opener, then at No.4 and then against at No.3. Of course, his run with the Indian team might have prepared him for this but still it takes some doing. And to top it all, he did it as skipper.
Ricky Ponting’s mis-adventure with captaincy in 2013 landed him on the bench and the job fell to Rohit Sharma... more by default than by design. Sachin Tendulkar didn't want the job and Harbhajan Singh had just been discarded as skipper. But Rohit’s continuing evolution probably paints him as an alternative (in the shorter formats for now) to Virat Kohli if the need ever arises.
When Kohli was named skipper, there were many who were against the decision because they felt he wasn't mature enough. Some also felt that he got the job because India lacked options.
Kohli has had a pretty good season as a batsman (16 games, 505 runs, avg of 45.90) but it is as a captain that Rohit has really stolen the show. He has done enough to even impress Tendulkar and Ponting. Even though, the both of them are linked to the Mumbai team, that should still mean something.
"If you compare him today with what he was when he started out as MI’s captain, he is a far better captain today," said Tendulkar. "He is much more confident now. He has gone through a lot of ups and downs as MI’s captain and has faced a lot of challenges. These challenges only make you a better cricketer and a tougher person."
Tendulkar specifically singled out Rohit's ability to execute plans on the field.
"You can tell a lot about the captain from the feedback the bowlers give you... we can plan many things behind closed doors but it is up to the captain, the bowlers and the fielders to bring it all together. Rohit has done that well," Tendulkar said.
An even better assessment comes from Mumbai Indians coach Ricky Ponting. In an interview with ESPNCricinfo on the eve of the final, he highlighted the qualities that hold Rohit in good stead.
When he was asked whether Indian cricket should invest in Rohit as a leader, Ponting didn't bat an eyelid before saying, 'I do.'
"You can see the growth in Rohit Sharma especially in the last part of the tournament where he has had to take some tough decisions -- as to bowling changes, when to bring the strike bowlers back, when to bowl the spinners,” Ponting said. “He has done that really well and he has done that under pressure.
"It hasn't been the smoothest of years for him as an individual. But you wouldn't know. He is that unflappable sort of guy, reasonably quiet but you just see that steely determination in his eyes that he wants to be the best player he can be and the best leader he can be. Look, down the track, if he continues to grow at the rate that he is, there is no doubt in my mind that he can captain at a higher level one day."
With those kinds recommendations on his CV, India might well turn to Rohit one day. We could all probably drink to that should it happen.
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Updated Date: May 26, 2015 16:31:36 IST