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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Explained: Should a misfiring Rohit Sharma open the innings for Mumbai Indians in the IPL final?

As Mumbai Indians target their second consecutive title, when they face-off against Delhi Capitals in the final on Tuesday (November 10), the indifferent batting form of captain Rohit Sharma will be a cause for concern.

Written by Vishal Menon , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | November 9, 2020 4:23:46 pm
Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma. (Source: IPLT20.com)

Led by their world-class pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult, and well complemented by wily spinners, energetic fielding and a turbo-charged batting order, defending champions Mumbai Indians have been the most complete team in IPL 2020. As they target their second consecutive title, when they face-off against Delhi Capitals in the final on Tuesday (November 10), the indifferent batting form of captain Rohit Sharma will be a cause for concern.

How has Rohit Sharma performed in this IPL?

Given his lofty standards, it’s been a fairly subdued season. With 264 runs and just two 50s from 11 matches at a below-par average of 24, Rohit runs the risk of finishing this season with the worst tally (2018 was his worst: 286 runs).

What are the reasons for Rohit’s barren run?

One of the overwhelming factors that has contributed to the Mumbai Indians captain’s barren run is his apparent discomfort in playing spin. It’s a well-documented fact that Rohit prefers facing pacers early on in his innings. So far, spinners have dismissed him on five occasions, with off-spinners, in particular, having the wood over the 33-year-old. In fact, Rohit has not hit even a single six against them. Taking cue, opposition teams have preferred to open the attack with off-spinners. The classic instance was during the Qualifier 1 game against Delhi Capitals, when Ravichandran Ashwin, who opened the bowling, trapped Rohit lbw in the very first delivery. The abrasive pitches in the UAE have also played a role in hindering his free-flowing stroke-play.

Rohit’s fitness has also been a concern, right?

More than concern, there was confusion surrounding his hamstring injury. He had to miss four games and also found his name missing from squads for Team India’s upcoming tour of Australia. In fact, a few hours after BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had cautioned Rohit against focusing on the short term at the expense of his career, he walked out for the toss in the seemingly inconsequential league encounter against Sunrisers Hyderabad. After that match, he would go on to dispel concerns over his fitness, when he said: “My hamstring is absolutely fine.” Since his return to the playing XI, Rohit could muster scores of 4 and 0.

Also Explained | Do mighty Mumbai Indians, IPL defending champs, have a weakness?

Did Rohit’s absence hamper Mumbai’s progress?

Far from it. In his absence, Quinton de Kock, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav stepped up with blistering performances at the top of the order, so much so that Mumbai hardly missed their experienced captain. de Kock and Kishan with 483 runs apiece and Suryakumar Yadav (461) feature in the top 10 run-getters of this season. In essence, this underlines the sheer depth of batting talent at Mumbai’s disposal. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

Should Rohit drop himself down the order for the IPL final?

There’s a school of thought that suggests that the franchise should elevate an in-form Kishan as an opener with de Kock in the IPL final, and ease their misfiring captain to the middle-order. In the four games that Rohit missed due to his hamstring injury, the 22-year-old Kishan impressed as the team’s make-shift opener, with scores of 68 not out, 37, 25 and 72 not out. But such a move would be counterproductive. That’s because Rohit had endured one of the most wretched phases as a batsman when he dropped himself to the No.4 position in the 2018 season.

So, where does Rohit fit in Mumbai’s batting order?

Despite the string of low scores, Rohit’s best option is to open. There’s little doubt that he is the team’s best batsman by a distance. Therefore, it’s important that he gets to face the most number of deliveries. Being an opener will give him time to assess the match situation and get into the groove. With the wealth of experience (the final against Delhi Capitals will be Rohit’s 200th IPL game), there’s no reason why he would not be able to turn around his form in the summit clash.

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