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The turnaround of Rohit Sharma

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Rohit_Sharma_India_cricket_talentStarting as a middle order batsman, Rohit Sharma's fortunes have changed vastly after being promoted up the order. It all happened when India played the 4th ODI against England in Mohali in 2013. The Mumbaikar scored a flamboyant 83 off 93 deliveries which paved the way for an Indian victory. The rest, as they say, is history.  

Sharma came into the limelight after his whirlwind 142 off just 123 balls against North Zone. After a few impressive performances in the domestic circuit, he was selected for India's tour of Ireland in 2007.  

After an impressive performance against Pakistan, his form began to dip. He eventually lost his place in the playing XI. Unfazed, Rohit Sharma played a pivotal role in Deccan Charger's first ever IPL victory in 2009, single-handedly winning the Hyderabad franchise a few matches. He also took a hat-trick, an unexpected achievement. He made a splendid comeback, scoring a couple of centuries in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. A dip in form against South Africa, saw him lose the spot for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.  

He was called for the second-string squad which travelled to the Caribbean Islands. Rohit excelled with the bat, scoring three half-centuries and received two man of the match awards. He was awarded the Man of the Series award as well and it was his first in the International arena. He was in great form when West Indies visited India, but a string of low scores, including back-to-back ducks, forced him out of the squad for a while.  

23rd January 2013 will probably be the day when the tables turned around for Rohit Sharma. With a victory sealing the series for India, Rohit Sharma was asked to move up the order to open with Gambhir against the English. The move paid rich dividends. Though Gambhir and Kohli were back in the hut, Rohit Sharma kept on going and reached his first half-century in 10 months. He, along with Raina, guided India home. It was a morale-boosting innings for Rohit.

His U19 World Cup campaign might have had a role to play as he predominantly played in the top order in that tournament.  

Since then, Sharma has been deployed in the top order in limited-overs cricket. In India’s victorious Champions Trophy campaign in 2013, Rohit Sharma scored 177 runs in 5 matches and played a huge role in the title victory. He continued his rich vein of form in the Tri-Nation series in West Indies and during Australia's visit to the sub-continent, Sharma showed his massive talent with the bat. His match-winning 141 helped India chase down a massive target of 360 and he buccaneered his way to a double century at Bengaluru, becoming only the third batsman to score a double-century in limited-overs cricket. That knock contained 12 fours and 16 sixes. It broke Shane Watson's record of hitting 15 sixes in his 185* against Bangladesh and also helped India seal the series 3-2.  

He failed with the bat against South Africa and New Zealand, both away from home. It was his lowest point as an opener, as he scored only one half-century in 10 innings. But fighters come back stronger. And Sharma was a fighter. He scored a couple of half centuries before his best ever knock in Indian colours arrived. Rohit Sharma made headlines after becoming the first ever player to register a 250+ score in an ODI during his marathon 264 against Sri Lanka.

He was making a comeback to the side after having fractured his finger. He blasted 33 boundaries and nine sixes as he plummeted the hapless Sri Lankan bowlers to all the corners of the ground. "I am coming back after an injury so, I will be a little nervous to see how I bat," he said, before coming into bat. Little did he realise that his knock will forever be etched in the history of the game. The knock stands as the highest ODI score to date and it is highly unlikely that it is going to be broken in the near future.  

He backed that up with a brilliant century against Australia and was in good nick heading into the World Cup 2015. He couldn't score big against big opponents, but he set the stage for the quarter-final match against Bangladesh, scoring a massive century. That innings oozed class and was a trademark Rohit Sharma innings.

India went on to win the quarterfinals and faced hosts Australia in the semis. Australia put up a big total and the onus was on Sharma to deliver. He had a good start but was bowled by a delivery which nipped back in. Indian hopes were shattered and the tournament favourites were ousted in the semis.  

He didn't fare well in the surprising series defeat at the hands of Bangladesh but starred with a century against South Africa. He scored a century in the first T20, which was his first in T20Is. That along with his 150 in the first ODI went in vain as India lost both the matches, agonisingly closely. He kept the scores coming, but India faced back-to-back series defeats.

Rohit Sharma's starts were one of the few positive takeaways for India in that tantalising period. His 171* against Australia at Perth was a testament to the fact that Sharma was no more a batsman who was afraid to take on the bowlers in the initial overs of a match. Though India lost that match, Sharma was widely praised for his attacking instinct with the bat.  

He had a good journey with the bat in the recently concluded Champions Trophy as well. He started off the campaign with a match-winning 91 against arch-rivals Pakistan, before continuing to torment the opposition. His unbeaten century against Bangladesh in the semi-finals paved way for an easy victory. Chasing a 260+ target in semi-finals is a tricky task but Sharma anchored the innings well with his classy 123. It was unfortunate to see him getting out for a duck in the finals, but one has to admit that the delivery from Amir was a peach and not many could do much about it.  

The turnaround started 4 years ago and it has been an incredible journey for the right-hander. Opening an innings takes impeccable courage and Sharma has done it with relative ease, producing match-winning performances. He is now regarded as one of the best openers in the modern day game and his performances have been a testament to it. 

 

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