The importance of being Rohit Sharma and the reinvention of Ajinkya Rahane


Mumbai Indians' Rohit Sharma plays a shot during the match against Punjab Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 at Wankhede Stadium, in Mumbai (ANI)

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Star India batter and all-format skipper Rohit Sharma turns 36 on Sunday. This right-handed batter has entertained and mesmerised audiences worldwide with his classy strokeplay and calm mindset while batting or captaining his side. He is among the best players of Pull shot in the game, often employing it during powerplay overs in white-ball cricket. But there is also a patient and determined side of him visible when he dons the white colours. This versatility makes him a perfect all-format batter of the modern era. Rohit made his international cricket debut in 2007. He impressed in his first high-profile outing of that year, the ICC T20 World Cup 2007. He scored 88 runs in three matches and stayed unbeaten in all three games. He started off with a fifty against Ireland and provided a valuable contribution to his side’s win with a 16-ball 30* against arch-rivals Pakistan in the final.

Since then, this baby-faced youngster evolved into one of the sport’s deadly willow wielders. The batter used to play in the middle order for the first six years of his career. But the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, where he got a chance to open with Shikhar Dhawan, sent his career graph on a massive upward trajectory. He scored 177 runs in five innings at an average of 35.40 with two half-centuries in that tournament, which India won.

A shot at opening the innings was a success and it transformed Rohit into one of the most destructive batters in the modern era. In 243 ODIs, he has scored 9.825 runs at an average of 48.63. He has 30 centuries and 48 fifties in the format, with 264 being his best individual score, which is also the best score in ODI cricket history. Rohit is also the only batter to have scored three double centuries in ODI cricket. Rohit’s ODI runs have come at a strike rate of 90.02.

He is the 15th-highest scorer in ODI cricket and the sixth-highest run-scorer among Indians, behind MS Dhoni (10,599), Rahul Dravid (10,768), Sourav Ganguly (11,221), Virat Kohli (12,898) and Sachin Tendulkar (18.426 runs).

He has the third-highest ODI tons by any player, behind Virat (46) and Sachin (49).

Rohit Sharma’s white-ball prowess was at its peak in ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England, where he topped the run-charts with 648 runs at an average of 81.00 in nine matches with five centuries and a fifty. He became the first-ever player to score five centuries in a single World Cup tournament.

The batter is also the third fastest to 9,000 runs in ODI cricket, reaching the milestone in 217 innings. He is also the fourth fastest to reach 8,000 runs in ODI (200 innings) and 7,000 runs (181 innings).

Over the years, he has established himself as a reliable test opener too. In 49 matches and 83 innings, he has scored 3,379 runs at an average of 45.66 and a strike rate of over 55. He has scored nine centuries and 14 fifties in the format, with the best score of 212.

He is part of the Indian team which reached the final of the ICC World Test Championship in 2021 against New Zealand.

The ‘Hitman’ as he is known to the fans, is also an absolute gun T20I player. In 148 T20I matches, he has scored 3,853 runs at an average of 31.32 and a strike rate of 139.24. He has four centuries and 29 fifties in the format, with the best score of 118. He is the second-highest run-scorer in the format behind Virat Kohli (4,008 runs).

He has hit the most sixes in T20I cricket (182 sixes) and is the most-capped male player in the format (148 matches). He is part of the Indian team that won the T20 WC in 2007.

In international cricket overall, he has scored 17,057 runs at an average of 42.74. He has 43 centuries and 91 fifties in international cricket, with a best score of 264. He is the 29th highest-run-scorer in international cricket and the sixth-highest run-scorer ever for India, behind MS Dhoni (17,092), Sourav Ganguly (18,433), Rahul Dravid (24,064), Virat Kohli (25,322) and Sachin Tendulkar (34,357).

Rohit has made an impact in T20 cricket with his captaincy skills. He has won six IPL trophies, making him the most successful IPL player ever. He has led Mumbai Indians to five IPL titles as skipper (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020), won one with Deccan Chargers as a player (2009). On top of that, he is the fourth highest run-getter in league’s history, with a total of 6,060 runs in 234 matches, 229 innings at an average of 30.14, with one century and 41 half-centuries and best score of 109*.

Ajinkya Rahane plays a shot in a match against Royal Challengers Bangalore during Indian Premier League 2023, at M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, in Bengaluru (ANI)

How Rahane “reinvented” his game for T20I format

Former India captain Mithali Raj said that Ajinkya Rahane has “reinvented” his game and changed his approach to fit into the T20 format.

Ajinkya Rahane, who was picked up by CSK at a base price of Rs 50 lakh – has had breathtaking performances this season. At the halfway stage of IPL 2023, Rahane aggregated 209 runs in five innings. The Mumbaikar averaged 52.25 and scored runs at a jaw-dropping strike rate of 199.1. Former India cricketer Mithali Raj has hailed the former India vice-captain, for the way he’s batting in IPL 2023 and reinventing his game.

Speaking on Star Sports’ Cricket Live Mithali Raj said, “Rahane has reinvented his game. He wanted to fit into the T20 format and that’s why he changed his game. There has been no change in his shots but there has been a lot of change in his approach. This Rahane is looking brand new.”

IPL 2023 has entered its second phase of the league stage and in the first half of the biggest T20 league, we have seen some spectacular individual performances. In the first 35 games in IPL 2023, the fans didn’t just get to see nail-biting encounters one after the other but also saw the players pulling off incredible feats with their heroics.

Sam Curran of Punjab Kings and Mumbai Indians’ Cameron Green were the most expensive players in the IPL 2023 Auction and the young all-rounders are reposing faith in their franchises.

Curran – who was purchased for Rs 18.5 crore by PBKS – has scored 142 runs in 7 games at a strike rate of 138 in IPL 2023. Green – who was bought for Rs 17.5 crore by MI – has amassed 199 runs by the mid of IPL 2023. He has struck at an SR of 149.

Speaking on Star Sports Cricket Live former England captain and coach Paul Collingwood lavished praise upon Curran and said, “Sam Curran is a true all-rounder. He can bat and ball with equal dexterity. He is a pocket-size dynamite.”

Curran and Green have also proved their mettle with the ball as well and emerged as the most impactful overseas bowlers amongst expensive buys. Curran and Green picked up 5 wickets each at an economy of 8.9 and 10.5 respectively.

Lauding the talented all-rounder from Australia, former India cricketer Irfan Pathan said on Star Sports’ Cricket Live, “Cameron Green has so far justified his price tag. Green can be a horse of long race for MI. After the departure of Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard, MI need an all-rounder and Green seems to be filling the void.”

The term ‘Impact Player’ might be the talk of IPL 2023 but the players who made the most impact are the ones bought at low prices and put up high-end performance for their team.

Ajinkya Rahane (CSK), Mohit Sharma (GT), Piyush Chawla (MI) and Mayank Markande (SRH) were all purchased at base prices at IPL 2023 Auctions. Before the start of the season, no one gave these players a chance but they silenced their critics with their performances.

Mohit Sharma has picked up four wickets in three games and returned with two player of the match awards for GT on two occasions already and has been a go-to bowler for skipper Hardik Pandya in the death overs. Similarly, senior spinner Piyush Chawla has picked up 9 wickets in six matches he played for five-time champions Mumbai Indians as the league stage reached the halfway mark. Chawla bowled at an economy of 6.9 in his first six appearances for MI.

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