Rohit hooks and pulls his way to quickfire 78 as India reach target in quick time

The 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League was the first season in 15 years in which Rohit Sharma did not make a single half-century. In fact, his average of 19.14 was his lowest for any IPL season and his strike rate of 120.17 his second-lowest, after IPL 2009. His last international fifty had come five months ago.

He’d let dot balls build up and often fallen to slogs and soft dismissals in the IPL. “I need to take care of the mental aspect and think about how I can return to form and perform,” Rohit had said after the IPL, clearly drained after Mumbai Indians’ disappointing campaign.

After a gap of a month, followed by another Covid-induced short break, Rohit has batted with refreshing freedom against England, first in the T20I series and then in the first ODI at The Oval. He may not have tallied a big score in the shorter format, but struck at 143.47 and provided India with quick starts as they sought to attack from ball one.

At The Oval, India were chasing a mere 111 after Jasprit Bumrah’s six-wicket haul. But they will also be pleased with how Rohit dismantled the England attack during his unbeaten 76 off 58 balls in India’s 10-wicket win.

All five of the sixes Rohit hit were pulled or hooked, and four of his seven fours came in similar fashion as England kept bowling to his strength, unlike India’s largely good lengths earlier. As a result, the overwhelming majority of Rohit’s runs came behind square on the legside.

Reece Topley did manage to rush Rohit into a top edge in the second over of the chase but the India captain got away with a four over the wicketkeeper. Thereafter, he was in command whenever England banged it in short.

Whether it was helping the ball along over square leg, or riding the bounce and hooking it into the crowd beyond long leg, Rohit put on an exhibition. By the end, the innings had the makings of one of his monstrously big hundreds, but the chase was too small for that.

There is no doubt that Rohit is in fine nick when he plays the pull and hook with such freedom and control. At the same time, it remains a shot that has also brought about his downfall many times in the past, as he can compulsively keep playing it and hole out eventually.

“It is a high-risk shot, I do understand that,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation. “But it has given me a lot of runs, and I back myself to play that shot. As long as it keeps coming, I am happy.” If he keeps middling it like he did at The Oval, so will be the team.

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