Five matches into IPL 2013, Rohit Sharma – a born-and-bred Mumbaikar – took charge of the Mumbai Indians after Ricky Ponting voluntarily stepped down from the captaincy. Till then, Mumbai Indians had reached 1 IPL final and had won zero titles, and remained an underperforming team despite the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Lasith Malinga firing on all cylinders. Since then, Mumbai Indians have won 3 IPL titles over 6 seasons. 2013, 2015, 2017…IPL 2019 now? Maybe.
There is no denying that Rohit Sharma has been one of the best IPL captains in its history. T20 cricket has been richer with his unassuming leadership, and not enough has been written about it. People are too busy focusing – and criticizing and praising – his batting instead. Given that he is one of Indian cricket’s greatest modern-day enigmas, this is no surprise. His IPL batting is believed to be the driving force behind the success of the Mumbai Indians team. But is that really true?
REPUTATION BEFORE FORM
Early on in Sharma’s IPL career, when he became a young batting star on the back of the World T20 title in 2007 followed by his performance in the VB series in Australia, much was expected of the “next big Mumbai batsman”. His first few IPL seasons were spent with the Deccan Chargers (which later morphed into Sunrisers Hyderabad). Rohit remained one of the most exciting players in the up-and-down team, and under Adam Gilchrist, he won his first IPL title in 2009 when the IPL was moved to South Africa.
This was the time Sharma failed to capitalize on his form in international cricket. It was said that if Rohit Sharma was asked to play for India in an IPL jersey, he would smash the ball all over the park. Such was his early IPL reputation, back when he was yet to be identified as a leader.
But as much as he is now considered an IPL batting legend, much of this is ironically down to him discovering his mojo as an opener for the Indian team. His international reputation as an opener is what has spilled over into the IPL, where he has not been half as successful as he has been in Indian colors (2013 was also the year in which Sharma was promoted to opener, and he has never looked back since). The fact is that he hasn’t been the most prolific batsman in the Indian Premier League. His dips in form have been more frequent than the others. He has been a regular feature, though. His 4504 runs have come in 174 matches. Compare this to Gayle’s 4000 runs, which came in 93 matches. As captain, he has had to take charge of a brittle middle order for the Mumbai Indians, which has prevented him from opening the batting as much as he should have. Coming at 3 and 4 has made him more of an accumulator and settler in IPL cricket.
In fact, let’s take a look at some of Rohit Sharma’s batting numbers in IPL cricket:
– He averages 31.73 in his IPL career with a strike rate of 130. Suresh Raina averages 34 with over 5000 runs. Virat Kohli has 4950 runs at 38.10.
– Sharma has scored more than 500 runs just once in 12 IPL seasons, back in 2013, when Mumbai Indians played 19 games to win the title. He also has only 1 IPL century.
– Sharma has averaged more than 40 just once in 12 seasons, back in 2016.
– Sharma has averaged 23.8 in the last two seasons for Mumbai Indians.
– He averaged 36.7 in his first season back in 2008 for the Deccan Chargers. Sharma was 20 then. Kohli, 18 then, averaged 15 in the same season for RCB.
– Sharma is the only cricketer in IPL to have scored more than 4000 runs and have taken a hat-trick (in 2009, for DC). Yuvraj Singh has two IPL hat-tricks, but he has only 2700 runs to his name.
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