That is what yesterday's centurion Rohit Sharma is becoming for Team India in one-day cricket, writes Aakash Chopra
It's almost certain that there are two Rohit Sharmas in the Indian team — one who plays in whites with the red ball in the longer format and the other one, who plays in coloured clothing with the white ball. While the former is still trying to find a way to stay relevant, the latter has started bossing over the limited overs format.
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India's Rohit Sharma plays a horizontal bat shot during his masterly 171 not out against Australia at the WACA ground in Perth yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
On a serious note, Indian cricket should thank the man who made Rohit open in ODIs, for that has changed his career forever. He's one of those few Indian batsmen who are comfortable against pace and bounce. In fact, he relishes both because he's got the horizontal bat shots on both sides of the pitch off the back-foot and that's a rare quality. I put it down to him growing up on the red-soiled pitches in Mumbai as these pitches offer more bounce than any other surface in the country.
He's fast becoming the best Indian batsman after Virat Kohli in the 50-over format. He scored a century in the first game of 2015 and also, ended up as the highest run-scorer for India in the ODIs. Once again, he's started the new year with a century and if India are to do well in 2016, it is critical for him to continue doing well. His knock in Perth yesterday will be remembered as one of his finest innings, for not only did he dominate throughout the innings but he also carried his bat through.
The biggest improvement in his batting over the last 12 months is his ability to start briskly. There was a time when he would play 70% dot balls in the first 10 overs and also, his strike-rate would hover around 60. Now, his dot ball percentage in the same period has come down to half and his strike-rate has shot up to 90.
It's unfortunate that his last two ODI centuries have come in a losing cause. His century against South Africa in Kanpur was the best century in that game as it was in Perth but on both occasions, it turned out to be futile. Anyway, most cricket matches are set up by the batsmen and won by the bowlers, especially on good batting surfaces. Good batting cancels each other out on such surfaces and hence it becomes about the depth in the bowling department.
Once again, Indian bowling was found out on a good batting surface. The lack of wicket-taking bowlers is proving to be India's bane. So far, whenever India needed a wicket, Dhoni turned to Ashwin but yesterday, he had an off-day.
And in this bowling line-up, Ashwin can't afford to have one. While the lack of resources is a known problem, the handling of the existing resources by Dhoni left a lot to be desired. Sarn took a couple of wickets at the start but was kept out of the attack for 29 overs after his initial burst. Ashwin came to bowl only in the 18th over.
And Yadav wasn't given the new ball either. Dhoni gave an impression that he was overly concerned about what's likely to happen in the last 10 overs and that proved detrimental in Perth. India's best chance of winning was to dislodge the Bailey-Smith partnership and once that didn't happen till the 41st over, the match was done and dusted.
Brisbane (2nd ODI on Jan 15) presents India a good chance as the pitch will offer more to the bowlers and that seems the only way to restrict this strong Australian batting.