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Hitman’s hassles! Why Team India is worried for skipper Rohit Sharma after poor IPL

The form of India’s two frontline batters has become a cause for concern in a T20 World Cup year, especially following the debacle of 2021.

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One crucial factor that stood out for Rohit this season was his dot-ball percentage, which jumped to 52 — the highest ever in his T20 career. (Twitter/Indian Premier League)

As the cameras and media trained their spotlight on Virat Kohli and his trio of golden ducks in the Indian Premier League (IPL), his successor as national team captain didn’t have the best times on the field either. Statistically, Rohit Sharma had a worse IPL than even Kohli.

Kohli averaged 22.73 and at a strike rate of 115.98 in 16 matches, while Rohit had an average of 19.14 at a strike rate of 120.17 in 14 without a single half-century. It was his lowest average return in 15 seasons and his second-worst strike rate, behind the 2009 edition. The form of India’s two frontline batters has become a cause for concern in a T20 World Cup year, especially following the debacle of 2021.

One crucial factor that stood out for Rohit this season was his dot-ball percentage, which jumped to 52 — the highest ever in his T20 career. While the number has crept up steadily, even the last time the IPL was fully held in India in 2019, it was at 40.3.

The high dot-ball percentage also reflected in the manner of his dismissals: a succession of dot balls followed by a slog, leading to top-edged catches. The latter half of the season witnessed the softer dismissals, such as slow-motion chips to mid-on.

The Mumbai Indians surrendered their season by the halfway stage following eight consecutive defeats. The Paltan had lost a chunk of their core — Trent Boult, the Pandya brothers, and Quinton de Kock — ahead of the season. Kieron Pollard was a pale shadow of his former self, Suryakumar Yadav was injured, and Ishan Kishan failed to live up to his price tag. The bowling attack also didn’t click as a unit, while the young batting line-up struggled in its first season.

All this appeared to have weighed on skipper Rohit on the field.

FAILING TO BREAK SHACKLES

Rohit has tended to go after bowlers after settling in during the Powerplay; he would then slow down but at times, an acceleration phase would arrive. It never arrived this time.

The stall during the middle-overs also meant he took high risks, albeit uncharacteristically, against bowlers he would not go after. After hitting one four in 11 deliveries against the Gujarat Titans, he attempted a reverse-sweep against Rashid Khan and was trapped leg-before.

Against the Kolkata Knight Riders, he let the dots build up at the start and then suddenly swiped at Umesh Yadav and top-edged a catch.

SOFT DISMISSALS

Halfway into the season, with the Mumbai Indians already on the brink, one of those characteristic half-pushes arrived as where Rohit instinctively brought down his bat on a full delivery from Mukesh Choudhary without making the slightest effort to keep it down. The ball scooped up to mid-on as he was dismissed for a second-ball duck.

The lowest point of Rohit’s season came when the Mumbai Indians ended the Delhi Capitals’ playoff chances in their last match. After taking nine balls to get off the mark, he played a soft chip off Anrich Nortje to mid-on and departed for 2 off 13.

On odd occasions, the opposition rhad a clear plan for Rohit. But largely, it was a tied-down Rohit getting himself out.

MENTAL BLOCK

Rohit admitted that he had endured such dips before and spoke about handling the mental side of his game to overcome the slump. “A lot of things that I wanted to do didn’t happen,” he had said after the Paltan’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. It’s only a minor adjustment and I will try to work on that whenever there is some time off.”

Rohit bats differently for the Indian team than when for his IPL team. And with some time off before the tour of England and Ireland, he can work on his mental edge.

Rohit’s workload is also a matter of concern now that he is captaining India in all formats, as well as the Mumbai Indians in the IPL. Kohli did the same for half a decade and even his batting prowess has plateaued in the past couple of years.

Since taking charge in November, Rohit has missed the South Africa tour because of injury, and also gone 11 innings without a half-century in international cricket since a 60 against West Indies in Ahmedabad in February.

Team India fans can hope that the captain sorts out his problems before walking out to open the innings for the deciding Test against England at Edgbaston on July 1.

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