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Probuddha Bhattacharjee ∙ Sep 16 2022, 10:30 AM

What if…. Rohit Sharma was not promoted to opening by MS Dhoni?


image-l84ate47Rohit Sharma during his 264 against Sri Lanka (PC: Twitter)


“I believe the decision to open in ODIs changed my career and it was a decision taken by MS Dhoni"  - Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma, this name in the present cricketing scenario needs no introduction. The current Indian captain in all formats, three double hundreds to his name in ODIs and one of the most lethal openers of the present times. 

But, Rohit’s introduction to the international scheme was as a middle-order batter and the initiation was not that impressive. It was a career changing decision for Rohit when the skipper of the Indian team, MS Dhoni decided to try Rohit as an opener. Well, as they say the rest is history. 

But what if MSD did not decide to promote Rohit up the order? 


The Effect of the decision in Rohit’s career

At the beginning of his career as a middle-order batter, Rohit Sharma gave some below par performances in the first four years of his time in the international arena. Let us take a look at his performances from 2007-2010.


image-l84ak2ngRohit Sharma's performance in the first four years of international career


Glimpses 

In 2011, Rohit Sharma was first asked to open the innings for India against South Africa. But the returns were not that impressive, he was able to score just 29 runs in the 3 innings.

But the belief that MSD showed in him gave him a lot of confidence and it was visible in his numbers during the season. Rohit scored a total of 611 runs in 2011 at an average of 55.55. Given his career trajectory at the time this was a great year for him. 


The momentum shift

image-l84awmcrRohit Sharma (PC: Twitter)


In spite of the initial failure at the top of the order, MSD spotted the opener in Rohit and gave him another chance in 2013. In his first innings of revival of the role, Rohit scored 83 runs off 93 balls at Mohali in England and impressed everybody. 

Going into the champions trophy, MS stuck with Rohit as the opener. And this saw the momentum shift in Rohit’s career. 

In the champions trophy 2013, Rohit scored 177 runs at an average of 35.40 with two fifty plus scores. It was a moderate tournament for him but the confidence he showed in the role prompted Dhoni to persist with him as an opener. 

The result of Dhoni backing him at the position is there for all to see. Rohit’s career took off from this stage and later he has translated his role in the longest format of the game. 


Rohit Sharma’s opening career

Since 2013 Rohit has played 144 innings as an opener and has scored 7380 runs in them at a RPI of 51.25.  A look into his RPI throughout his career will give us an idea of how that decision from MS Dhoni turned around Rohit’s career. 


image-l84alwaxRohit Sharma's RPI by year throughout his career


As we see from the figure his RPI has been on the rise since 2013, barring the year 2016. Also in the last two years the numbers are a bit low but it may be because of the less number of games owing to the pandemic. 

To add to the credibility of the decision of MS Dhoni, Rohit has scored 27 of his 29 centuries and 33 of his 45 half-centuries at the opening slot. His innings per century while opening is 5.44, while the same stat in middle order reads 38.5. 

Thus the MSD’s idea of ‘Rohit, the opener’ was revolutionary from all aspects. 


The Answer

If Rohit Sharma was not promoted to the opening spot by MS Dhoni, we would not have been able to witness the following.

  • Record three double hundreds by an individual player in ODIs
  • World record of 264 in one innings by a batter in ODIs
  • Evolution of Rohit Sharma as a leader
  • Rohit Sharma the Test opener
  • Rohit Sharma as the full time Indian skipper

This particular instance stands out as how confidence and relentless backing by a skipper can bring the best out of a player. As cricket fans, seeing Rohit Sharma bat is always a peaceful scene to watch but he might not have turned out to be half the player that he is now.


Also Read: Behind the click:The birth of a Legend