Smashing the best bowler in the world out of the stadium? All in a day’s work for Suryakumar Yadav.
A few years back team India injected Rohit Sharma in the middle order of their Test-playing 11 and it was like bringing Ferrari home to have that drive from home to office hassle-free, comfortable and pleasant.
But in reality that Ferrari was stuck on a road in a traffic jam. Despite having an enormous, powerful engine and the capability to run at the speed of a bullet, it was just standing still waiting, unable to get going. As team India, you would be feeling disappointed, frustrated, even betrayed for the investment you made.
More importantly, not knowing what to make of it now. You have to cherish its beauty before it becomes useless. Now you would end with only one option – findding a way to reach its potential.
So on a one fine day, Virat Kohli and team India management threw their last dice with Rohit Sharma, making him open in the longest format of the game. So you got that Ferrari on way earlier than usual when there was less traffic and surprisingly, it worked.
In 16 innings as a Test opener, Rohit has scored 981 runs at an impressive average of 65.40 with four hundreds and two fifties. During this period no opener in the world has more 50-plus scores than him. So finally your Ferrari is running at its potential and you are just enjoying the ride while the world is in awe of this beauty, a bit jealous of not having it in their armoury.
You feel so confident, powerful and blessed to have hands behind that steering. Sharma always has that art of making batting look ridiculously easy, the drives, the cuts, the pulls are so elegant on the eye. But when Sharma played in the middle order he always struggled to bring that consistency, that compactness of his technique.
Let’s see what has changed for Sharma in recent years. There were two typical types of dismissals he used to have.
1. Outside of the off-stump
Whenever the ball was pitched on that corridor of uncertainty, especially in overseas condition where the ball would do much more in the air, Sharma would have often been found guilty of chasing it with a hard hand without any footwork, leaving a huge gap between bat and pad. Thus, he was getting bowled or caught behind the wicket. But now as an opener, he understands where exactly his off-stump is, which is really an important aspect as a Test player.
He also learnt the art of leaving balls that are outside off-stump and defending other ones a lot closer to his body with soft hands, making sure that the edges don’t carry.
2. The inswinging one
Remember that CT2017 final match where Mohammad Amir brought back one and trapped Sharma in front of the stumps? Remember that in India’s Test tour of South Africa 2018, Kagiso Rabada did the same thing in the first innings. Earlier, he didn’t use to open up his body while playing the inswinger so any bit of movement would make hard for him to counter. But now his front foot moves to the leg stump, which opens up his body more and places him right behind the ball, allowing him to counter that swing.
In the second and third game of the series, he has shown how much his technique is improved. While every other batsman struggled for runs, he was making it look so easy on the eye. Close your eyes for a moment and try to remember that cover drive against Stuart Broad, and I am sure you would be shouting like Virat Kohli was. Try to remember that back-foot punch against James Anderson on the short length ball around the fourth or fifth stump line, and Sharma with both feet in the air punched through the cover for a boundary.
Never mind if you own that Ferrari or not, just watching it moving across the road gracefully will always give you so much joy.