Rohit Sharma: Failure to Launch

Sure, we’ve heard all the jokes. We’ve seen all the memes. The No-hit puns are outdated now. As are the ‘talent’ taunts. Though his international career has stopped and started more often than a luna, Rohit Sharma’s T20 career has always held a place of pride in his heart. Until Virat Kohli hit the scene in this format in the last few years, Sharma was India’s most effective top-order batsman – a fact that he reminded everyone of once the domestic T20 season, the Indian T20 League, rolled out every summer. As the captain of the Mumbai Indians since 2013, with two league titles to his name, Rohit has been his team’s batting mainstay ever since he joined in 2011 after a successful stint with the Deccan Chargers

He has batted at various positions in the top order – from one to five, and has done so over extended periods with distinction. He has averaged 30+ in every year since 2011, though he has never quite crossed 40, like his contemporaries tend to when they’re in good form. He has a career average in this league of 33 – with just one century to his name, and is the third-highest on the run-getters list. 

On Sunday night, Rohit scored 40* to guide his team to victory against the Gujarat Lions. This was his team’s fifth game, and took them to the top of the table. However, most Fantasy League players had by now dropped Rohit from their squads. He had four single-digit scores leading into this game – beginning the season with 3, 2, 4 and 0 to his name. 

While his fans were exasperated, it wasn’t the first time they saw this – Rohit beginning his favorite league with a string of low scores. He usually picks up towards the middle and business end, much like his team tends to, but this time the Mumbai Indians won without him contributing in any of the games. That Rohit was returning from a six-month layoff due to injury and surgery only added to the debate about his ‘form’ and his sudden inability to play spin bowling. 

He was dismissed by a spinner in each of the games early on. Thrice to a googly. But he managed to finally break the jinx against the Lions. 

Here’s a breakdown of Rohit’s ‘beginning’ to every season since 2012:

2012: 0, 1, 73

2013: 11, 74, 62

2014: 27, 2, 50

2015: 98, 0, 0

2016: 7, 84, 7

2017: 3, 2, 4, 0

He has scored 500 runs in 19 innings at the start – with three ducks, seven single-digit scores and six fifties. 

Except 2013, where Rohit scored his maximum runs ever in a season (500+) at an average of 38 – Mumbai Indians won their first title then – he has this unsettling trend of ‘easing’ into the tournament with two low scores and a fifty. This lack of consistency tends to hurt his team, too, who’re notoriously slow starters, and who’ve somehow found a way to win four of their five games this year, thanks to the emergence of young Nitesh Rana at the top. 

In 2015, Mumbai Indians won their second title, and Rohit had started the campaign with a bang – with a 98* against his favorite opposition, Kolkata Knight Riders, on his favorite ground, Eden Gardens. He followed that with two ducks. Even his 84 in 2016 was against the KKR, and we all know about 2017, where he has struggled like a tail-ender against the spinning ball. 

Even in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia, Rohit, who opened the innings with Shikhar Dhawan, started the tournament with scores of 15, 0, 57 and 7. His two half-centuries and century in the tournament came against UAE, Ireland and Bangladesh with his 15 (Pakistan), 0 (South Africa) and 7 (West Indies) just about defining the problem of consistency that has forever plagued his career. Rarely do you hear Rohit Sharma, like Virat Kohli, scoring fifties or centuries in consecutive games. It’s almost like he takes his foot off the accelerator after succeeding once, until he succeeds again – with no in-between fifties or quick forties. 

Death, taxes and Rohit failing after a century/fifty are a constant in life – except perhaps in the early days with Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians, before he had scored his ODI double centuries, and when he still had a lot to prove. KL Rahul had the same problem till recently, where he got six fifties in the Test series against Australia. 

He may have finally showed some form on Sunday night, but one can be sure that with his role as ‘anchor,’ the big scores will elude him for most of this season. And they definitely won’t come in consecutive matches.

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