Let’s make one thing clear: ODI cricket isn’t the same anymore.
300 is a par score for teams nowadays, and this rises to 350 on Indian pitches. Which explains why the only double centurions in ODI cricket are Indians, on their own pitches.
This is a far cry from the days I remember, while growing up, watching Gary Kirsten fall 1 run short of the highest-ever ODI score (Richards, 189) against UAE in the 1996 World Cup. 188 was still a mighty individual score in a World Cup where openers had only just begun to discover how they’re the ones who can use powerplays and demolish records. 220 was still a par score back then, as it was even when Saeed Anwar played that unforgettable innings of 194 against India at Chennai a year later.
This record held till 2009, when Zimbabwe’s wicketkeeper Charles Coventry equaled the score but remained not out against Bangladesh. Many had come close—Sachin with a few 180s, Dhoni and Ganguly with a few, but it was near impossible to approach 200. Then came Sachin Tendulkar’s third wind—a breathless 200* against South Africa at Gwalior—the first in the history of ODI cricket, and a record expected to stand for years.
Only one man could have broken it, and it was Virender Sehwag, a year later against a sorry West Indies side. He scored 219 aggressive runs, and surely, this had to be it.
Within a year now, Rohit Sharma has scored two ODI double centuries. These could be two of more to come, even if one takes his inconsistency and dips in form into consideration. Everytime he crosses 100, he becomes the most dangerous batsman in world cricket.
His first was 209 against Australia in a series decider 5-match series at Bangalore, against a good attack in an important situation.
His second double hundred is, as we speak, the highest ever ODI score in the history of cricket. On 12th November, 2014, little over a year after his previous double hundred, opener Sharma—in his comeback ODI after 3 months and fighting for his position in a side brimming with confidence—scored 264 mind-boggling runs against a down-and-out Sri Lankan team in an inconsequential dead rubber match.
Be that as it may, 264 is, by all means, a number that numbs the mind.
There have been many dead rubbers over the years, and nobody has gotten close to 200 in those innings. He has not only shattered the previous record of 219, but put up a number that will perhaps stand for years—despite the wham-bam world of T20-ODI cricket nowadays. This is an international arena, and 264 is the 400* of Test Cricket, which incidentally was achieved by the same batsman (Lara) after a mammoth 375. What’s entirely possible is that Rohit, who is all of 27 and not as consistent as he should be, could break his own record down the line.
And only he can, because no other opener in the world—once he gets going—can be as destructive as him.
Rohit Sharma may have broken tons of records during his knock. Some of them are:
The only batsman to score two ODI double-hundreds
Maximum fours in an ODI innings (33)
During his Bangalore knock, Maximum sixes in an ODI innings (16)
Third highest percentage of team runs in an ODI innings
Sharma scored his first 50 in 71 balls. His final score of 264 came off 173 balls. Do the math. His final 50 came off 15 balls.
Remarkably, just as the selectors may have thought that the openers’ slots were decided for the World Cup, with both Rahane and Dhawan showing fine form, along comes Rohit—after missing out on the England ODI series—to assert his credentials again.
The selectors must remember that these are home pitches, and must put into context who is more suited to the bounce of Australia for the next 4 months.
But this innings will do Rohit’s chances no harm, because no opener in world cricket can accelerate after scoring the first 100 runs like Rohit does. He made a mockery of the Lankan attack, just like he had of a fiery Aussie attack a year ago.
He hasn’t been consistent in between, but his career chart over the last 18 months makes for encouraging reading.
The turning point came against England in an ODI at Mohali in January 2013—the first time he was asked to open the innings after his flop show at the top in South Africa 3 years ago. Sharma scored 83 in a position newly vacated by Sehwag.
At the Champions Trophy six months later, Sharma continued with a string of half centuries, assisting Man Of The Series Dhawan at the top. India had found their new openers.
But Rohit failed to convert starts for a long time, until the 5-match ODI series against Australia began at the end of 2013.
His 141 at Jaipur was audacious while chasing a large total, followed by a 79 at Nagpur in the 4th ODI, and a final defining 209 at Bangalore. What was important is that he remained unbeaten during both his big knocks.
He struggled overseas along with every other Indian batsman, managing only a half-century at Auckland. He started the England ODIs promisingly with a 52, after which he got injured again, similar to his 2011 tour, where he dropped out after fracturing his finger and found it hard to come back again.
However, The Garden of Eden has been kind to him. Rohit made his Ranji debut here almost a decade ago. He went on to score an IPL century here against KKR in 2012, followed by his test debut in which he scored 177 against West Indies in Sachin’s Farewell series. After Azhar and VVS, Rohit has taken over Kolkata.
Rohit’s 264, to put things into context, is 22 runs higher than the average first-innings ODI score over the last decade. He fell only 4 runs short of the highest ever List A score (268).