There were very few sights in the cricketing world more pleasing to the eye than a certain Rohit Sharma in full flow. Elegance is easily one of the first words that one tends to associate with him but there is another which has been thrown around throughout the course of Rohit Sharma’s career and even burdened him at times - talent.
However, currently in Rohit Sharma’s career, as arguably one of the greatest white-ball batsman of all times and a position at the top of the order even in Test cricket, he has justified all those who backed him during a time in his career when he would seemingly gift his wicket away.
An attempt at Rohit Sharma’s biography would undoubtedly be a lengthy one simply because of the things that only he seems to be able to achieve. But his story is much more than just Rohit Sharma’s stats, records and achievements. It’s a story that perhaps represents a bigger community of people who did not get that one chance which he was perhaps fortunate enough to get.
Rohit was born on 30th April 1987 in Nagpur, Maharashtra. When Rohit was just one and a half years old, his family shifted to Dombivali and since his parents couldn't really manage the expenses of two children, Rohit spent most of his time with his grandparents and uncles.
He loved the game right from his childhood and would often spend hours at a stretch playing cricket in his neighbourhood. What helped was that he had people around who understood the sport. In fact, all his uncles had played cricket for their schools and colleges and acknowledging young Rohit's fascination for the game, it was them who decided to enroll him in a small cricket academy.
Interestingly, Rohit Sharma’s cricket debut was as an off-spinner. In fact, the way he started his career later had a bearing on his journey at the big stage. Among the remarkable things in Rohit Sharma’s IPL career and stats, is the hat-trick he achieved bowling the same off-spin with which he started cricket. Rohit Sharma’s Test cricket record also boasts of two wickets till now and the Indian opener Rohit Sharma’s cricket career shows wicket to his credit in every form of the game.
It had been his off spin itself which impressed coach Dinesh Lad and prompted him to ask him if he could change his school and join Swami Vivekananda International School, keeping in mind the better coaching and training facilities there.
Although his uncle promptly denied getting Rohit's admission there owing to the difference in fees, Lad was adamant on the young talent getting a good platform and asked the school director to provide him sports scholarship - an opportunity which arguably changed the course of his life. Not much later, coach Lad identified Rohit's batting talent and from someone who batted lower down the order, he eventually opened the innings in inter-school cricket tournaments.
And that was probably when the script for one of the world’s most successful opener in white-ball cricket was written who has gone on to become the Most Successful IPL Captain till date. He has definitely come a long way and from someone belonging to the middle-class family, Rohit Sharma now is among the top-earning sportsmen in the country. An estimate of Rohit Sharma’s salary reveals he has earned more than INR 130 crores through his IPL contracts alone over the 13 seasons. Apart from that he has been categorized in the A+ Group of players by the BCCI.
Rohit met his wife Ritika Sajdeh, a sports manager, during a commercial shoot. Rohit’s family also included his two-year-old daughter Samaira and if their social media posts are anything to go by, they give us major family goals, time and again.
But it wasn’t that easy. Rohit made his debut in Domestic Cricket for West Zone against Central Zone in the Deodhar Trophy of 2005. His innings of 142 off 123 balls against North Zone threw him into the limelight. He continued his good form in First-Class cricket making his debut for India A and later going on to play for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy 2006-07 season where his double hundred against Gujarat meant that the national selectors were forced to take notice of a fine young man.
Seeing the potential in Rohit, it was against Ireland in the ODIs that Rohit made his international debut, it wasn't really until the 2007 World T20 that the world first saw the range of strokes that this youngster possessed and the ease with which he brought them out one after the after like a magician bringing out tricks from his hat. The then 20-year-old eased himself to a fluent half-century against the likes of Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock helping India to a fighting total which they eventually defended successfully. As it turned out, it was Rohit's innings which helped the Indian side knock South Africa out of the tournament in their own home.
After a few of such performances at the World T20 and an impressive record in Ranji Trophy cricket, he was given an extended run in limited-overs cricket. Six long frustrating years saw him kept getting in and out of the team because of his inconsistent performances and eventually being dropped for the 2011 World Cup Indian squad. A segment of the average cricket fan kept wondering why he was being backed failure after failure and even some of the pundits' and ones who have seen him time a cricket ball had their patience level tested each time he got out playing what is described by another word which has gone on to haunt him- a "lazy" shot.
It was eventually in the 2013 Champions Trophy that the then captain MS Dhoni backed Rohit for the opener's slot. He had opened in international cricket before on a few occasions but had not achieved anything that could assure he could be the right contender.
However, Rohit's promotion to the top of the order changed his career graph for the good as he went on to become the white-ball giant of the game. There is little doubt, if Rohit ever becomes a university professor, he would be teaching a paper titled, "The art of pacing an ODI innings."
It wasn't for no reason that only he could become the master of hitting daddy hundreds, hitting India's highest individual score year after year since 2013- when he got his first double hundred. While some of the best batters around the world have struggled to reach close to the 200 mark in ODIs, Rohit has reached that landmark thrice in his career- a testimony to his genius on the cricket field.
But it remains possibly one of the bigger ironies in cricket that a touch and an elegant stroke maker like Rohit would go on to be nicknamed the Hitman- as more often than not he wouldn't hit it but time it as if to make sure the ball the ball is not hurt but obediently goes to the boundary.
He even became the only batsman in the world to score five centuries in a single edition of a World Cup, achieving the feat in 2019 ending the tournament as the leading run scorer. But unfortunately, his efforts proved insufficient to take India to the finals as the Men in Blue were knocked out after a stunning defeat to New Zealand.
That he was always in the reckoning for the national team even during the phase it felt he did not have the temperament for the highest level, was to a great extent because of the Indian Premier League (IPL). In 2009, Rohit was adjudged the Emerging Player of the Year for his performances both with the bat and ball (including a hat trick against Mumbai Indians) for the Deccan Chargers as they went on to lift the title.
He was later picked by the Mumbai Indians where in 2013- the same year he had been promoted as an opener in white-ball internationals, he was asked to take over captaincy midway, a move which changed both MI and Hitman's fortunes. Rohit has ever since led Mumbai to five IPL titles in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 and his quality of having a calm head and being approachable to youngsters in the team has been his biggest USP.
Rohit boasts of an even better record than the legendary MS Dhoni- at least in the IPL- and his success as a leader in the shortest format has forced people to ponder if he should be made the captain of the national team in limited-overs cricket. However, with Virat Kohli still in charge of things and doing reasonably well at the helm of affairs, that possibility seems a bit blurred as things stand now.
In T20Is too, Rohit has made a name for himself, usually piling runs through the same fixed format- taking his time initially to get used to read the pitch before turning the beast mode on. And boy, it works wonders for him, as he has brought up four hundreds in a 120 ball per innings game- also becoming the joint-fastest to reach the triple digit mark (35 balls)- an innings against Sri Lanka at Indore where commentators felt he could have even reached the double hundred mark.
In Test cricket though, it has been a different ballgame for him. His arrival in the purest form of the game coincided with Sachin Tendulkar's departure and it was obvious that the talk of the series would be Tendulkar himself. And so amid all the focus on one of the sport's greatest ever icon, there was perhaps little pressure when he was picked to make his Test debut at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata in the opening Test starting from 6 November 2013. India first bowled out the visitors for 234.
On Day 2, India were reduced for 82/4 when in came to walk Rohit for his maiden innings replacing none other than the master himself. Just a run had been added when Rohit lost his partner Virat Kohli and India were clearly the tensed dressing room. However, Rohit had mentally prepared for this moment and with six years of international experience and several more of junior level cricket- there wasn't doubting his skill either. He simply had to apply himself and that he did that with remarkable ease and grace on his way to a superb hundred on debut partnering the likes of MS Dhoni and R Ashwin.
He backed that performance by another hundred in what was Tendulkar's farewell Test and as if in a tribute to him it was a Mumbaikar who had silently made a mark as a Test cricketer. However, his transition to Test cricket wasn't that smooth and easy as after a dream start, he struggled to maintain consistency. He was tried at various positions in batting order and was subsequently in and out of the Test team post a string of low scores in Test cricket.
Despite going on to become one of the most successful openers in coloured jersey, it took almost six more years for the team management to include him at the top of the order in Test cricket and when he finally got his chance, he announced his arrival as a Test opener with a hundred. Everytime, a question has been asked of his technique or class, he has silenced those concerns with a big innings and with him one only gets a feeling that he will eventually have a significant impact even in the red-ball game at the highest level.
Next time you see Rohit Sharma playing that pull shot, so typical of him, and the ball sailing over the fences, remember that this isn't his story alone. It's the tale of parents for whom it was difficult to manage the expenses of their child, of uncles who had played cricket but couldn’t quite make it big, of his grandparents who saw him grow up, of his coach- who saw something in him before anybody could but more than anything else it's a story of resilience, self-belief, hard work and dare we say a bit of, "talent."