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India v England

Rohit Sharma, the opener: one of the best there’s ever been

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

In October 2019, Rohit Sharma was finally promoted to open in India’s Test batting line-up, six years on from his debut in the format.

At the time, he’d played 27 Tests and averaged 39.62 in a stop-start red-ball career. In white-ball cricket, though, he’d been a model of consistency, establishing himself as one of the best opening batsmen in ODI and T20I history. As an opener in the 50-over game, he’d averaged 57.42 from 134 ODIs, hitting 25 hundreds and going past 200 on three occasions. In T20Is, he’d hit four centuries.

Sixteen months on, it seems Rohit’s legacy as a Test cricketer is to be forged as an opener, too. In reaching three figures against England on Saturday, Rohit brought up his seventh Test century, and his fourth in just nine Tests as an opening batsman. Finishing on 161, Rohit’s average as an opener now stands at 66.46. Of men to have opened the batting in at least 10 Test innings, only Australia’s Sid Barnes holds a higher average. Furthermore, across all formats, Rohit now has 35 international hundreds as an opener. Only eight cricketers have hit more in the role. Rohit’s ex-teammate Sachin Tendulkar leads the way with 45 centuries.

A boom-or-bust approach has appeared to characterise Rohit’s Test career so far up top. Of his four centuries, he’s now passed 150 on three occasions, turning one of those scores into a double century. He has just the one unconverted fifty to his name, however, with his highest score outside his four centuries the 52 he made against Australia at the SCG last month.

If there is one trend that has followed Rohit’s career as an opener from when he was situated lower down the order, it’s the stark contrast between his home and away records. Prior to opening the batting, Rohit averaged 85.44 at home and 26.32 abroad. As an opener he averages 81.66 at home and 32.25 away (from two Tests in Australia). All seven of his Test centuries have been hit in India. In fact, among batsmen with more than 1,000 Test runs at home, only Don Bradman (98.22) averages more than Rohit (83.55).

India will now hope that Rohit’s century marks a return to form in Test cricket; it should be said that three of his centuries as opener came in one run-laden series against South Africa in 2019, when he averaged 132.25 across four innings. In a two-Test series against Bangladesh that followed, he returned 27 runs across two innings, while he was overshadowed by the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant in India’s recent 2-1 series win over Australia.

After 18 runs in India’s first Test defeat at Chennai, his 231-ball knock in the second has seen him lay down a marker for the series.

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