Risk Taking Rohit Sharma Reaping Rewards in the World Cup

India captain Rohit Sharma is at the forefront of the risk-taking approach in the ODI format. The team is reaping the benefits.

Risk Taking Rohit Sharma Reaping Rewards in the World Cup
Dillip Mohanty

Written by: Dillip Mohanty

(Sports Editor)

Fact checked by: Umaima Saeed

(Sports Writer)

Last updated: 2023-11-07

The Context - India’s loss in the 2021 T20 World Cup

India crashed out of the 2021 T20 World Cup in the group stage after suffering twin defeats against Pakistan and New Zealand in Dubai. It was India's sixth exit from an ICC event since their victory in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy in England. India's conservative approach in the limited-overs format, especially in T20I matches, came under significant scrutiny. Outgoing coach Ravi Shastri admitted that India "lacked daring.”

Virat Kohli had earlier announced that he would step down from captaincy after the 2021 T20 World Cup and hinted that Rohit Sharma is the right candidate to become his successor. Rohit was appointed as the all-format captain in December 2021 with Rahul Dravid as the head coach.

India was in dire need of changing their approach to safety first in white-ball cricket. The newly appointed captain, Rohit Sharma, understood this and had a clear vision of how to implement it. At the forefront of his vision was himself- leading by example.

On a Star Sports programme, Rohit said “We felt that there needs to be a change in our attitude, in our approach in how we play the game. We had a clear message given to the boys and they were ready to accept the challenge.”

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“We felt that there needs to be a change in our attitude, in our approach in how we play the game. We had a clear message given to the boys and they were ready to accept the challenge.”

Rohit Sharma on India's whiteball cricket

From a builder to a destroyer

Between June 2013 and Dec 2022, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma opened together in ODIs for India. They became the most prolific partners in ODIs for any wicket. Kohli, Rohit, and Dhawan were the trinity of India's limited-overs cricket and also the highest run-scorers in ODIs respectively in the world. While Rohit took time to get his eye in, Dhawan provided the early burst for India. Rohit always played the long game, taking his batting deep inside the innings. The approach worked for him and as well as for the team as he accumulated three double hundreds in ODIs in a span of 66 matches in four years from 2013 to 2017.

ROHIT SHARMA _ SHIKHAR DHAWAN STRIKE RATE IN ODIS.pngFor instance, during his epic 264 innings against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens, Rohit took 72 deliveries to reach 50. In the next 28 deliveries, he completed 100. He took another 73 deliveries to score the remaining 164 runs. This has been the go-to modus operandi for Rohit for years.

The change in approach

The strategy to save wickets to flourish later required a reboot. Other teams, such as England, did not see any value in preserving wickets until the end. Their approach was to maximize the depth of their batting line-up from the beginning. This approach proved successful for England in limited-overs cricket. They emerged as champions in the 2019 World Cup and the 2022 T20 World Cup. The data indicates that the rebuilding phase after the fall of a wicket has not produced significant results. A consistently aggressive approach is yielding better outcomes. Rohit Sharma embraced this approach and led the team from the front, spearheading the change.

Rohit’s risk-taking method

There is a stark difference in the intent on how Rohit constructs his innings since 2022. He is no longer the innings builder. But he is the destroyer in chief against the opposition bowlers. The stroke play that often Rohit saved for the fag end of innings has dominated at the beginning of his innings. The lofted inside-out shots over the covers, running down the wicket to hit a pacer over his head, the hooks and the pulls now construct Rohit’s innings in the powerplay.

Rohit sharmas first 30 ball strike rate.pngIn his ODI career, Rohit has never had a strike rate over 100 in the first 30 balls he faced. However, starting from 2022, Rohit has shown remarkable improvement in his strike rates. In 2022, his strike rate was 108, and in 2023, Rohit has maintained the same strike rate. This demonstrates his intent as a batsman to score runs quickly.

It is interesting to note that a significant portion of Rohit's runs come from boundaries. Approximately 80% of his total runs are scored through boundaries, which highlights his exceptional ability to hit fours and sixes.

Moreover, Rohit's aggressive approach as a captain also influences the team's playing style. He not only preaches the philosophy of going hard from the start but also sets an example by implementing it in every inning. This has a positive impact on the entire team, as they are inspired to follow suit and play with a similar aggressive mindset.

An excellent example of this was seen in a rain-affected match against Pakistan at Pallekele. Despite losing both Rohit and Kohli within the 7th over, India's batters did not retreat into a defensive mode. Instead, they counterpunched the Pakistan bowlers every time a wicket fell. This proactive approach led them to score a competitive total of 266, even though they were bowled out before completing fifty overs.

Overall, Rohit's improving strike rates, his ability to score boundaries, and his aggressive captaincy style have had a significant impact on the team's performance and mindset.

Average & Strike Rate in ODIS.png

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"He has been playing a high-risk game for quite some time now, which he should not. I have no idea why he is doing that. I think he is making a mistake by playing an overly aggressive game."

Dinesh Lad, who coached Rohit Sharma in his formative years

Rohit in the World Cup

In 2023, Rohit Sharma's average in the first 30 balls in ODIs is 76.71, and his strike rate is 106.3. Among the top openers who have scored with an average of more than 60 and a strike rate of over 100, Rohit is the second most prolific scorer after Shubman Gill.

Many well-meaning people who support Indian cricket and Rohit Sharma were bewildered by this approach. Dinesh Lad, who coached Rohit in his formative years, said, "He has been playing a high-risk game for quite some time now, which he should not. I have no idea why he is doing that. I think he is making a mistake by playing an overly aggressive game."

Rohit Sharma all-along knows what he is doing and why. In a World Cup year, the team needs to innovate in terms of strategy to stay ahead of the curve. Preserving wickets until the later stages on flat pitches have not provided dividends to the teams.

This new risk-taking approach has certainly reaped rewards for India, especially in the 2023 World Cup. India is the only team so far to remain unbeaten. In 29 ODIs that India has played in 2023, they have lost 5. India won 82% of their ODIs in 2023, way ahead of the second-best team, South Africa, who have won 70% of their matches.

OPENERS IN POWERPLAY.png

An aura of invincibility surrounds the Indian team in this World Cup. No other Indian team has won 8 matches in any World Cup let alone winning 8 matches at a trot. India's batting prowess sets them apart in this tournament, with a remarkable gap in stability and skill compared to other competing nations. Leading from the front, Rohit Sharma as the opener boasts an impressive average of nearly 90 and a strike rate exceeding 130, solidifying India's dominance.

If India's luck holds steady, it's exceedingly improbable that any force in the universe could thwart India's determined quest to clinch the 2023 World Cup.

Dillip Mohanty

Dillip Mohanty

Dillip has over two decades of experience in creating sports content. As the Sports Editor of SportsBoom, Dillip brings in a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Dillip has worked with leading sports broadcasters and sports web content portals in Asia. He is an adept storyteller and has a special liking for data stories. He has a keen interest in data analysis and uncovering insights from large datasets. He loves to tell the story with rich and compelling data visualisation.

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