IPL 2022: Rohit Sharma’s forgettable season could be a cause for concern ahead of major assignments

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While the spotlight was almost exclusively trained on Virat Kohli’s triple golden-duck Indian Premier League season, the man who replaced him as India captain wasn’t having the best time out in the middle either. In fact, Rohit Sharma had an arguably worse IPL 2022 than even the torrid tournament that Kohli endured.

While Kohli averaged 22.73 and struck at 115.98 in 16 matches, Rohit tallied 19.14 and 120.17 from 14 without scoring a single half-century. It was his lowest average in 15 seasons of the IPL and his second-worst strike rate, only behind IPL 2009. The form of India’s two foremost batsmen – albeit while playing for their franchises – has to cause concern in a T20 World Cup year, especially after the debacle in UAE 2021.

There is one crucial factor that stands out this season for Rohit – his dot-ball percentage has jumped to 52. It is by far the highest it has ever been in his T20 career. It has steadily crept up over the years, but even the last time the IPL was fully conducted in India, in 2019, it was far healthier, at 40.3.

It has reflected in some of his dismissals this time; a succession of dot balls or a quiet phase would be followed by a slog, leading to some top-edged catches. Then, towards the latter half of the season, the softer dismissals began to occur, such as those typical slow-motion chips to mid-on.

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Mumbai Indians’ season was practically over by the halfway stage, after a run of eight successive losses. MI had lost a great chunk of their core – the Pandya brothers, Trent Boult, and Quinton de Kock – to other franchises before and during the auction. Kieron Pollard was a shadow of his former self, Suryakumar Yadav was mostly injured, and Ishan Kishan failed to live up to the tag of the league’s costliest player. The bowling attack didn’t really click as a unit, and the young batting line-up was found wanting in its first season.

 

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All this did appear to weigh skipper Rohit down, with the bat and on the field.

Failing to break free

Rohit has had the tendency to start with a bang after a sighter in the Powerplay; he’d then slow down but at times in the IPL – albeit not as much as it happens in international cricket – an acceleration phase would arrive later. It never did this time.

At the Brabourne Stadium, against Delhi Capitals, Rohit began reasonably well but managed a single boundary in his last 10 balls. Left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed troubled him constantly and he was even dropped before he tried to take on Kuldeep Yadav and failed to clear deep midwicket.

He went similarly against Lucknow Super Giants at Wankhede Stadium. After powering away to 30 off 18, he lost so much momentum he took just nine off his last 12 balls. That brought out a slog and he top-edged Krunal Pandya to short third man.

This middle-overs stalling also meant he took uncharacteristically high risks against bowlers he would usually not. (iplt20.com)

This middle-overs stalling also meant he took uncharacteristically high risks against bowlers he would usually not. After hitting just one four in his last 11 deliveries against Gujarat Titans, he went for a reverse-sweep off Rashid Khan, and was trapped leg-before.

Against Kolkata Knight Riders in Pune, he let the dots build up at the start itself and then suddenly had a swipe at Umesh Yadav – who was hard to target in the Powerplay this season – and top-edged a catch for 3 off 11.

Soft as you get

Halfway into the IPL, with MI on the brink of an early exit, arrived one of those characteristic half-pushes where Rohit instinctively brought the bat down on a full delivery coming into him from left-armer Mukesh Choudhary, and didn’t make any visible effort to keep it down. He could have got away if the ball went to midwicket or mid-on on the bounce, but during this wretched run he was having, it carried to the latter fielder for a second-ball duck.

MI ended DC’s playoff hopes in their last match but it was probably the lowest point of IPL 2022 for Rohit, the batsman. After taking as many as nine deliveries to get off the mark, he played a soft chip again off Anrich Nortje, giving catching practice to mid-on and departing for 2 off 13.

MI ended DC’s playoff hopes in their last match but it was probably the lowest point of IPL 2022 for Rohit, the batsman. (iplt20.com)

There was the odd occasion when a clear plan from the opposition worked; for instance, when Prasidh Krishna had a shortish backward point and bowled a wide one after several on the stumps, Rohit cut it straight to the fielder in the second over against Rajasthan Royals. But largely, it was a case of a tied-down or plateauing Rohit getting himself out.

‘Mental aspect’

Rohit said that he had been through such dips before too and spoke about having to handle the mental side of his game to come out of the slump. “A lot of things that I wanted to do didn’t happen,” Rohit had said after MI’s last match. “But this has happened with me earlier as well, so it’s not something I am going through for the first time.

“I know cricket doesn’t end here; there is a lot of cricket ahead. So, I need to take care of the mental aspect and think about how I can return to form and perform,” Rohit added. “It’s only a minor adjustment and I will try to work on that whenever there is some time off.”

Not unlike KL Rahul, Rohit does bat a bit differently for the Indian team than when he is playing for his IPL franchise. And he also has time off now before the England and Ireland tour, having been rested for the South Africa home T20Is.

There will always be the matter of Rohit’s workload now that he is leading India in all formats, plus MI in the IPL. Kohli donned all four hats for half a decade, and even with his standout fitness, his batting has hit a plateau in the past couple of years.

Since taking over in November, Rohit has already missed the South Africa tour due to injury, and since making 60 against West Indies in the first ODI in Ahmedabad at the start of February, he has also gone 11 international innings without a half-century.

Has the jadedness been building for a while, and did it become too much to bear during the course of a forgettable IPL for him and his team? Or did getting through a gruelling eight-week league, when the team was dumped out of it after four, itself become too hard on the mind and body? Some of his latter dismissals in the tournament might suggest so.

One can only hope though, that India’s captain sorts it out before walking out to open for the Test-series decider at Edgbaston on July 1.



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