a dramatic dip and never took off thereafter. He could register just one more ton in the next 25 Tests and had 21 scores of below-20 in 45 innings – which basically meant that he could not reach 20 in 46.67% of the innings – poor numbers for a top 6 batsman! Amongst the 41 batsmen (positions 3 to 6 where Rohit batted in this period) who scored above 1000 runs in this time-frame (November 2013 to December 2018), Rohit’s averaged placed him outside the top 20. Having been unable to secure his position in the Test XI despite numerous opportunities, the selectors were running out of patience with Rohit. With Hanuma Vihari doing well from the Number 6 position, Rohit’s Test career was all but over. Till the team management came up with a masterstroke. Basing their analysis on his form in the 2019 World Cup in England, they decided to give him one last chance – as an opener in the home series against South Africa. And didn’t Rohit make it count! And how! He scored 529 runs in his debut series as opener in just 4 innings at an average of 132.25. Only three Indian batsmen – Virat Kohli (610 runs against Sri Lanka in 2017), Virender Sehwag (544 against Pakistan in 2004-05) and Sourav Ganguly (534 against Pakistan in 2007) have aggregated more in a series of maximum three Tests.
Rohit also became the first Indian opener to aggregate 500-plus in a series since Sehwag (544 runs against Pakistan in 2004-05). His three hundreds in the series are also the joint highest for an Indian in a series of maximum three Tests. Rohit’s Test average rose from 39.6 before the series to 48 after. He has now scored 1298 runs in 12 Tests (18 innings) in India including 6 hundreds and 5 fifties. Moreover, his incredible average of 99.84 is the highest ever for a batsman at home (min. 1000 runs), even higher than Bradman’s 98.22 in Australia. Almost as significant as the big runs he scored, is the strike rate at which he scored them. The standard strike rate of the other Indian batsmen in the series was 61.36 while Rohit scored at a rate of 77.45. Rohit not only scored big runs but scored them quickly and demoralized the South Africa’s bowling attack and also created time for the Indian bowlers to bowl the opposition out twice. Still early days, but Rohit’s Test career has an uncanny resemblance with the great Sehwag’s. Sehwag was a middle-order batsman in first-class cricket and floated in the lower order for India in his first 5 Tests before being asked to open the innings by skipper, Sourav Ganguly in England in 2002. The rest is history!
A 96-ball 84 in his first innings as Test opener and Sehwag never looked back. He registered a hundred in the next Test at Trent Bridge and went on to revolutionize opening in Test cricket. Sehwag aggregated 8207 runs in 99 Tests as opener at an average of 50.04 including 22 hundreds. Two quintessential qualities defined his batting. He scored big runs – 14 of his 23 hundreds are 150-plus scores and he one of the four batsmen in Test cricket history (along with Don Bradman, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle) to record two triple hundreds. He was also the fastest Indian (in terms of innings) to 3000 and 4000 Test runs and the second fastest overall (after Wally Hammond) to 7000 Test runs.
Not only did Sehwag score big runs consistently, he also scored them at a rate
unprecedented in red-ball cricket. His strike rate of 82.23 is the highest (min. 2000
runs) in the history of the game! Not only did he annihilate and deflate bowling
attacks with his destructive batting, but also saved enough time for the Indian
bowlers to bowl the opposition twice.
Sehwag was one of the greatest openers in the history of Test cricket and the only
non-English, non-Australian opener (min. 3000 runs) along with Sunil Gavaskar to
average above 50.
Much like Rohit, his record as a non-opener was mediocre – 379 runs in 11 Tests at
an average of 37.9 with just one hundred.
What is intriguing about Rohit though is that he has a similar story in ODI cricket
EDEN PARK AND MOHALI – STITCHED TOGETHER IN HISTORY
March 27, 1994, Auckland: Chasing a modest 142 posted by New Zealand, India
sends in a new opening batsman. He produces one of the most exhilarating knocks
witnessed in ODI cricket shredding the Kiwi attack to all corners at Eden Perk. His
82 of 49 deliveries which included 15 fours and 2 sixes is the fifth-highest batting
strike rate innings of above 75 in the history of ODI cricket till then. He shows a
glimpse of his true batting prowess in 50-overs cricket. India chase down the target
within 24 overs.
More importantly, a star is born.
Sachin Tendulkar opened for the first time in his ODI career in Auckland. Till
then, he had scored 1758 runs in 69 matches (66 innings) mostly from number 4
and 5 at an average of 30.84 and strike rate of 74.36 with no hundreds.
Post Auckland 1994, Tendulkar went on to become one of the greatest batsmen in
the history of ODI cricket. He aggregated 16668 runs in 386 innings at an average
of 47.08 and strike rate of 87.71. No one in the history of ODI cricket has scored
more runs or registered more hundreds than Tendulkar’s 49.
As an opener, Tendulkar has scored 15310 runs in 340 innings at an average of
48.29 and strike rate of 88.05.
He was way ahead of his times and two notches above any other batsman in the
His ability to consistently score big runs and the phenomenal rate at which he
scored them put him in a league of his own.
From Auckland, 1994 till the end of the millennium, Tendulkar had the highest
ODI average of 48.6 for an opener and the third-highest strike rate of 91.45.
Just for perspective, Ganguly had an average of 43.63 but a strike rate of 71.58,
Saeed Anwar – 42.41, 82.86 and Mark Waugh – 44.37, 76.76. Sanath Jayasuriya
had a strike rate of 95.13 but an average of just 33.4.
Taking a combination of the two and there was Tendulkar and then broad daylight!
There was a monumental 26.48% difference between Tendulkar and the second-
best batsman, Anwar in this period.
Tendulkar scored 23 hundreds in this period. The second-highest was again Anwar,
He continued to maintain his high standards till he retired – no opener in world
cricket scored more runs or recorded more hundreds than Tendulkar in this period
Tendulkar had a great sense of the occasion and raised his level at the biggest stage
– the World Cup. He aggregated 2278 runs (the highest in World Cup history) in
just 44 innings at an average of 56.95 and strike rate of 88.98 including 6
He played a pivotal part in India’s relative success in the 1996 and 2003
World Cups and was India’s most impactful batsman in the 2011 World Cup.
He had an excellent record against the best team of his era – Australia – scoring
3077 runs at an average of 44.59 including 9 hundreds against them – none more
memorable than his back to back hundreds at Sharjah in 1998.
Tendulkar was also the first batsman to register a double hundred in ODI cricket –
against South Africa in Gwalior in 2010.
It all began on that fateful March day in Auckland!
Fast forward about 19 years.
23 rd January, 2013, Mohali: Rohit Sharma is asked to open the innings against
England in Mohali by skipper, MS Dhoni. He had opened before – in just three
ODIs in South Africa in 2011 but had never been given a permanent role in the
position. Rohit scores 83 off 93 deliveries as India chase down England’s 257.
And there came the transformation.
Rohit had scored 1949 runs in 78 innings at a modest average of 31.43 and strike
rate of 78.62 including just 2 hundreds from various batting positions (other than
the three times he opened) till the Mohali encounter.
From thereon, as an opener, he has aggregated a colossal 6690 runs in 129 innings
at an average of 58.68 and strike rate of 92.35.
No opener has scored more runs or has a higher average in the world in this time-
Rohit’s 25 hundreds are also the highest for an opening batsman in this period.
In fact, only Kohli has scored more runs and recorded more hundreds (for any
batting position) than Rohit in this period.
Like Tendulkar, Rohit stands out for scoring big runs at a very high strike rate after
he started opening for India in the format.
Only 8 double hundreds have been recorded in ODI cricket history – Rohit has
scored three of them including the highest individual score in the format – 264
against Sri Lanka in Kolkata in 2014.
Again, much like the little master, Rohit is a big-match player who raises his game
when it matters most – in the game’s flagship tournaments.
He was the highest scorer in the 2019 World Cup in England aggregating 648 runs
(only Tendulkar – 2003 and Matthew Hayden- 2007 have scored more in a single
edition) at an average of 81 and strike rate of 98.33. His 5 hundreds were also the
most any one has registered in a World Cup.
Overall, Rohit has scored 978 runs in 17 World Cup innings. His average of 65.2 is
the second-highest (min. 500 runs) after Andrew Symonds.
He has an impressive record in the Champions Trophy too scoring 481 runs in just
10 innings at 53.44 including one hundred and 4 fifties.
For most of Rohit’s career as an opener, England have been the most dominating
side in ODI cricket (after India). He has scored 454 runs in 13 innings at an
average of 50.44 against them.
It is not a matter of luck or chance that made Rohit excel as an opener in both
ODIs and Test cricket.
There is a strong cricket rationale behind it.
Rohit is a ‘similar’ type of batsman to Tendulkar and Sehwag – extremely gifted,
attacking stroke-player who possesses great timing and the ability to hit the good
balls for runs and score heaps of them in boundaries.
In ODI cricket, he takes his time to settle in but then makes use of the hard new
ball coming onto the bat and the fielding restrictions scoring a flurry of boundaries.
This gives his innings the required impetus and momentum at the start – much like
Tendulkar did throughout his career as opener. Not surprising then, that both of
them have scored over 50% of their ODI runs in boundaries.
The reasoning can be extended to Test cricket as well.
Sehwag made use of the pace of the new ball, his hand-eye coordination and the
attacking fields in Test cricket hitting scores of boundaries giving India a blazing
start putting the opposition on the backfoot. He then settled down and scored the
big hundreds. One of the greatest boundary hitters in the game’s history, he scored
approximately 64% of his total Test runs in 4s and 6s.
Rohit emulated his great predecessor in the home series against South Africa
taking the attack to the South African bowlers. Though, not as devastating as
Sehwag initially, he accelerated after scoring his fifty (and then hundred) hitting a
large percentage of his runs in boundaries. Not surprisingly, 54.77% of his total
career runs have come through hits to the fence or over it.
Opening the batting transformed Rohit’s career and he has gone on to become one
of the greatest batsman in the history of one-day cricket.
We have seen something special in his maiden series as Test opener.
Will the metamorphosis take him to greater heights in five-day cricket?
Time will tell.