Could brush with leadership finally turn Rohit Sharma’s fortunes around?

IPL 6 will be remembered for a young man taking over the mantle of a star-studded outfit.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Published:May 28, 2013 4:00 am

Not for the first time on the IPL stage,Rohit Sharma proved to be his team’s batting mainstay and dazzled audiences with his exquisite batting essays. But this IPL wasn’t really about the Mumbai right-hander’s batting,even though he raked up impressive numbers of 538 runs at a strike-rate of 131.54. It will rather be remembered for a young man taking over the mantle of a star-studded outfit and finally leading them to a long-awaited IPL title.

This despite having been forced into the captaincy role with original skipper Ricky Ponting opting out of the role and the team owing to his poor form.

Along the way,Rohit played a number of knocks to prop up his team,which included some breathtaking assaults in the death overs and some calculated,if not shrewd,cameos that changed the course of the game.

But again,what perhaps stood out was his composure while he led his charge and his poker-faced response to success and failure on the field.

This composure was on display on Sunday night as well. As Lasith Malinga concluded the 19th over of the Chennai Super Kings’ innings,the game had mathematically (42 runs from six balls) slipped away from the two-time champions’ reach.

But as Mumbai wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik let out a premature victory cry,Rohit immediately stepped in with a finger over his lips,asking his exuberant team-mate to calm down.

And it was only after Kieron Pollard had delivered the final delivery of the innings and the Mumbai bench spilled out of the dug-out and invaded the field that the young captain let his emotions spill over for the first time in close to three weeks.

With a Dhoni-like calmness about him,Rohit resembled the Indian skipper in more ways than one — by forever taking control of proceedings whenever Mumbai Indians took the field and shouldering the burden of his team’s middle-order with in need.

At 26,however,Rohit is yet to become a permanent fixutre in international cricket,across the limited over formats — despite having been around for a little over seven years. And Test cricket — despite the absence of the big names — has never seemed further away.

At crossroads

So why,after so many years of being in and out of the top circuit,is Rohit’s international career still at a crossroads? While his talent has never been questioned,some have remarked that his temperament while at the crease is his big let down while others seem to suggest that his penchant to make things happen when well set has always caused his downfall.

This IPL season,though,Rohit the batsman — perhaps as a result of his added responsibilities — showed encouraging signs of having matured with time. He proved to be a little more judicious in his approach despite the demands of the T20 format.

And more often than not,he was decisive in shot selection as well being precise with regards to pacing his innings. And on display was also Rohit the finisher,a batsman who wouldn’t carelessly throw his wicket away after a fifty until the job was done. His coach,Dinesh Lad,agrees.

“Leading this side has made him a lot more positive,” says Lad. “His body language has changed. Actually he seems to be thriving under this added responsibility. It was the same even when he was in school. For after he was appointed captain then,his game began to improve drastically.”

The Champions Trophy is less than two weeks away. With 88 ODIs under his belt,Rohit is one of the more experienced members of this side.

The onus would be on him to perform in the absence of Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh. And Team India can only hope that he manages to build on his new-found brush with responsibility.

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