Rohit ditches old ODI template to add new dimension to India's batting

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24 Jan 2023 | 03:58 PM
authorAnirudh Suresh

Rohit ditches old ODI template to add new dimension to India's batting

It is time to embrace Rohit Sharma v 3.0 and the chaos and fireworks that comes with it

Nope, your eyes are not betraying you. 

Yes, it has indeed happened. 

Rohit Sharma has changed his ODI template. We repeat, Rohit Sharma has changed his ODI template.

Goodbye, our sweet old Rohit 2.0. You gave us wayyyy  more joy than we expected you would. You truly were one of a kind. 

When you were in the zone (which you were often), you were quite simply the best opener (if not batter) in the world. We will miss you, your slow starts and your daddy hundreds (and double hundreds) — big time.

This is not to say that you will no longer score daddy hundreds. You are, after all, a freak.

But we know, and are aware, that this 3.0 version will, in all likelihood, score far fewer daddy hundreds than the previous one due to how much more inherently aggressive (and in turn risky) it is. 

However, if it ends up making the team stronger and adding a new dimension to it — which, it feels, has already happened — it will be worth it. 

Which is why we are totally ready to embrace Rohit Sharma v 3.0 and the chaos and fireworks that comes with it. 


Before we get into Rohit v 3.0, it is only fair we explain what Rohit v 2.0 was. 

For the longest time, Rohit Sharma the ODI batter’s template had been the following: be cautious up-front, take plenty of time to get in and then tear into the bowling after settling. During his peak years, seldom did Rohit go bang bang against the new ball on a consistent basis. 

Rohit v 2.0 was born in 2013 and for the first 9 years of his career, he was no faster than a snail in his first 20 balls: his strike rate read 65.3.

In all but 2 years he struck at under 80 in his first 20 balls — in seven different years his first 20 balls strike rate hovered between 50 and 75 — and in every single year between 2013 and 2021, Rohit attacked fewer than 40% of the first 20 balls he faced. 

In this aforementioned period (a very extended one at that), Rohit built nearly every single innings one way: start very very slow, pick up the pace after getting in, maintain the same tempo for a considerable period and then cut loose after a point. 

His innings progressed in a ludicrously linear and consistent fashion.

He had a template and he stuck to it religiously. Perhaps except for the odd occasion.

And it yielded him a tremendous amount of success.

In the said period, Rohit amassed 7,227 runs at an average of 58.76, striking 27 hundreds in 139 innings. He scored a hundred every 5.14 innings and astonishingly, 11 of the 27 hundreds turned out to be 140+ scores. The template yielded him three double-tons, mind you.

The model was fool-proof, tried-and-tested and impenetrable. It made Rohit close to invincible in the 50-over format.

A decade on, however, Rohit has decided to move away from it. Or so it seems.

Rohit’s new ODI template: full-on aggression from the get go

It is important to note that Rohit’s transformation is still in its nascent stages. And the sample size is small — 14 matches, which is roughly 10% of the number of games he played with his old template. 

But his metamorphosis from ‘innings-constructor Rohit’ to ‘dasher Rohit’ is real. He no longer takes his time up-front. Those days are long-gone. 

Since the start of 2022, Rohit has been striking at 96.40 in his first 20 balls; this figure stood at 65.3 in the previous 9 years. The numbers aren’t skewed by a few innings either. In 71.42% of the innings he’s played in ODIs since the start of 2022 (10/14), Rohit has struck at 85.00 or more in his first 20 balls. 

To give some context, in 52 ODI innings between 2018 and 2021, Rohit scored at a SR of over 85.00 in just 34% of the innings (18/52). The jump in the strike rate has been a direct result of him consciously attacking a higher proportion of deliveries up-front.

Between 2013 and 2021, Rohit attacked 31.6% of his first 20 balls. Post 2018 (till 2021), this number fell to 27.1%. In 14 ODIs since 2022, his attack percentage in the first 20 balls has risen to 39.2%. 

What’s been fascinating is not how he’s chosen to be aggressive from the get go, but how he’s essentially attacked, attacked and attacked. Non-stop.

We saw how the 2.0 version of Rohit preferred to maintain a high tempo (around the 90 SR mark) after getting his eye in but this current version is insistent on taking the opposition bowlers to the cleaners, hitting them out of the attack.

We witnessed this today in Indore. By the end of the powerplay Rohit had raced to 39 off 31, but he was not content with just the quick start. 

Two overs later, he smacked Santner for a pair of sixes and then followed it up by hitting the part-time medium pace of Daryl Mitchell for a hat-trick of fours. He had the foot on the accelerator for the entire duration of his innings, and even perished attempting a big hit. 

The pattern is hard to ignore: whether it be the 60 against West Indies in Ahmedabad, or the 76* against England at The Oval, or the 83 in the first ODI against Sri Lanka at the Barsapara Stadium in Guwahati, Rohit has walked out with the sole aim of taking the bowlers on for as long as he can. 

And yes, this is not a case of us simply choosing to ‘see’ things. Post the second ODI in Raipur, the skipper himself admitted that he’s modified his approach in 50-over cricket.

“I'm trying to change my game a bit now, have been trying to take the bowlers on and I think that's important,” Rohit said.

Understanding the reasoning behind Rohit’s change

By moving away from his previous template, Rohit has effectively opted to fix something that’s not broken. 

It is significantly different from his decision last year to modify his T20 game. Unlike in ODIs, Rohit in T20s never had a template that worked for him and yielded consistent success, so that change was understandable. In 50-over cricket, he is the king.

It is hence fully reasonable to wonder if he needed to make the change in the first place. In truth, India would have still done just about fine had Rohit stuck to his old methods, but the skipper’s new avatar benefits the side in many ways.

For a start, it ensures the side will, more often than not, start matches on the front-foot, something they did not do a whole lot under Dhawan and Rohit. 

Between 2015 and 2021, India maintained a run rate of 4.9 inside the first 10 overs. While they did exceptionally well to always absorb pressure and slowly transfer it back into the opponent, it is worth remembering that the template only worked due to the top three being at their absolute peak. 

The approach was never going to be sustainable, particularly with the ‘big three’ aging, and it only makes sense that the team has done away with it. 

In six innings they’ve batted together, Gill and Rohit have struck at 111.9 in the powerplay, opting to put the opposition under pressure right away, making them come up with solutions.

In the current ODI scenario, aggression up-front is perhaps the need of the hour while batting first, for it gives the team the best chance of posting an above-par score. Come the World Cup in India, where dew will dictate the course of matches, merely getting to par will not be an option for teams.

Additionally, Rohit being aggressive not only takes the pressure off Gill and allows him to go about constructing his innings at his own pace, it also gives a bit of a run-rate cushion to a middle-order that’s stacked with anchors in the absence of Rishabh Pant. 

Rohit clicking will ensure that there’ll be no need for the middle-order to play catch-up. In this new model (where he does not bide his time), him not firing will also not be that big of a disaster, for it’ll then allow the likes of Kohli and Shreyas Iyer to do their thing. 

You also get the sense that with Gill already having shown that he has the ability and pedigree to bat long, Rohit has realized that it’ll be far more beneficial for the side if he, as skipper and opener, goes for broke. 

It is a fascinating change, indeed. Only time will tell, however, if this tweak will prove to be a masterstroke. 

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India vs New ZealandNew Zealand tour of India, 2023IndiaRohit SharmaShubman Gill

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