Rohit Sharma‘s record 118 against Sri Lanka in Indore on Friday – the joint-fastest T20I hundred – included 10 sixes, the most by an India batsman in a T20I game. That took his tally of sixes across formats in 2017 to 64, the highest by a batsman in any calendar year. While a look at the numbers alone may suggest Rohit is a six-clobbering automaton, the reality is that the big hits aren’t so much a product of brute force as they are of stunning timing, one example being the six that he clipped over midwicket off Dushmantha Chameera in the 13th over.
Rohit admitted after the match that his game wasn’t a power-dominated one, and he instead relied on timing and picking gaps. In Indore, he was also focused on relentlessly targeting the short square boundaries.
“I definitely don’t have so much power. I rely a lot on timing the ball more than anything else,” he said after the match. “I know my strengths and my weakness. I try and play with the field a lot. When the field is spread after six overs, I try and see where I can find my boundary options. I want to score all around the park and not just one area. It’s important that I try and explore the fielding the opposition keeps for me.
“In all formats, I try and do that. You can’t just hit in one area. You become predictable then. It’s always important to score runs all over the field and that’s my strength.”
Rohit’s second T20I hundred was largely made up of conventional strokes. His 43-ball 118 had 108 runs come off boundaries, giving him a boundary-percentage of 91.52, the highest for any T20I innings of 30 balls or more.
“I didn’t play any of those flamboyant shots. I was just trying to hit the balls in the areas that I was looking to hit,” he said. “All the shots which I played pleased me because it takes a lot of effort to pull it off. Even when you defend it, you should like it as well. It’s not only about hitting boundaries and sixes. The ball that you hit in the gap should also make you happy.
“I was thinking of scoring runs, not any particular target. In all the formats, I don’t look to get to a particular milestone. My job is to go out there and score as many as possible. Not just 100s or 200s or 300s. I go out there to make sure I get my team into a good position. My job is to do that. There are times when you don’t get runs. There are times when you get runs. Never do I ever walk out thinking that I want to score a century or a double century. I just want to give my best and get the team a victory.”
In his first full series as stand-in captain, Rohit led from the front with a double-hundred in Mohali as India went on to win the ODI series 2-1. With the T20I series, too, already in the bag, he was asked if his batting had remained immune to the pressures of captaincy. He disagreed, and said the defeat in the first ODI in Dharamsala, where India collapsed to 112 batting first, had put him under a lot of pressure.
“In Dharamsala, we were in a position where the team could have folded for the lowest score possible,” he said. “After that game, I was thinking quite a bit about my captaincy and my team. I was thinking that I was leading for the first time and I had been put in such a difficult situation.
“There’s a lot of pressure on you always. Wherever you play, or any opposition you play, there’s always pressure. We’ve won the series but each and every match is important. It’s crucial to use each and every opportunity. When you captain for the first time, there is obviously pressure. I don’t know when I’ll lead India again so, for me, every match, every series and every moment on the field is important.”
Rohit felt India’s successful showing against Sri Lanka would help the team’s momentum ahead of the South Africa tour.
“When you travel overseas, the last series does have an impact,” he said. “The momentum you create, the winning rhythm of the team does give a lot of confidence. But once you go there, how you adapt yourself – technically and to their conditions – remains important. Even their fast bowlers will be much different than Sri Lanka’s.
“When you travel overseas, the skills and mindset need to be changed, nothing else. You can carry the confidence you have generated from the recent success in the Test, ODI and T20 series, so as a team we are on a high and the confidence will help us in South Africa.”