Although it may have taken longer than initially expected, Rohit Sharma now stands as one of world cricket's most glittering prospects.
Suddenly transformed from an underachiever to the seemingly complete package, the stylish right-hander appears capable—along with Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan—of shouldering the burden left by the departure of Sachin Tendulkar.
Yet, until now, Sharma has been a source of frustration for India. Somewhat like the early stages of Ian Bell's career with England, the 26-year-old hadn't previously been able to transfer his sumptuous talent into truly meaningful performances.
That all changed during India's recent seven-match ODI series against Australia, with Sharma claiming Man of the Series honours by hammering 491 runs in six trips to the crease, at an average of 122.75.
His performance led to him being named in the nation's Test side for the very first time, announcing his belated arrival on the stage so many had believed him capable of conquering for so long.
Of course, cricket's newest star didn't take any extended period of time to repay the faith, gracefully cruising to consecutive hundreds against the West Indies, matching Sourav Ganguly as the only Indian to score back-to-back centuries in his opening two Test match appearances.
Unsurprisingly, that string of emphatic performances has made Sharma's selection as world cricket's Batsman of the Month a rather straightforward one.
November Performance Summary:
|Score (Balls)||Opponent||Match Type||Venue||Match Date|
|209 (158)||Australia||ODI||Bangalore||Nov. 2|
|177 (301)||West Indies||Test||Kolkata||Nov. 6|
|111* (127)||West Indies||Test||Mumbai||Nov. 14|
|72 (81)||West Indies||ODI||Kochi||Nov. 21|
|12 (19)||West Indies||ODI||Visakhapatnam||Nov. 24|
|4 (14)||West Indies||ODI||Kanpur||Nov. 27|
Those that witnessed Sharma's blistering 209 in the final ODI against Australia will never forget the brutality of the right-hander's hitting in Bangalore.
However, it was actually the 26-year-old's next innings that was his most impressive performance to date.
While nowhere near as savage, Sharma's 177 against the West Indies in Kolkata was one of the most composed performances one will ever witness by a Test debutant; the final margin of India's colossal victory glossing over the dire situation they found themselves in when Sharma arrived at the crease early on day two.
Having replaced Tendulkar with the score at 82-4, India's newest star watched Shane Shillingford dismiss Kohli almost immediately to leave the home side at a precarious 83-5. With a Test debutant left alongside his captain MS Dhoni as the only recognised batsmen still standing, the West Indies' meagre first innings total of 234 had suddenly looked extremely competitive.
Yet, instead of wilting under the pressure to deliver an appropriate parting gift to Tendulkar, Sharma set about his work with a minimum of fuss, displaying his newly discovered sense of supreme self-belief to power the hosts into a commanding position by the close of the first innings.
Against the spin of Shillingford and Veerasammy Permaul, Sharma's combination of elegant footwork and lightning use of the wrists made his play seem gloriously effortless; his punishing of the cover boundary a clear standout.
When facing the seamers, he was even more delightful, one unforgettable back-foot drive racing to the fence despite being nothing more than an elegant push.
While his limited-overs 209 against Australia was breathtaking, Sharma's first innings in the Test arena was the performance that truly announced his arrival.
Outlook For December:
|Opponent||Match Type||Venue||Match Dates|
|South Africa||ODI||Johannesburg||Dec. 5|
|South Africa||ODI||Durban||Dec. 8|
|South Africa||ODI||Centurion||Dec. 11|
|South Africa||Test||Johannesburg||Dec. 18 - 22|
|South Africa||Test||Durban||Dec. 26 - 30|
Sharma will now join his teammates for India's mouthwatering duel with South Africa. Three ODI's will kick-off the tour, before two Test matches round out an exciting month for the tourists as they continue their quest to reclaim the world's No. 1 ranking.
For Sharma, the tour represents an irresistible opportunity. With his feet now well set inside the Indian dressing room, the right-hander has the opportunity to take on the world's most fearsome outfit while in the most devastating form of his career.
Certainly, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel will present a stern test to the emerging star; as will the faster and more lively South African pitches.
Yet, in his current mood, nothing seems out of reach for Sharma, which means that November's Batsman of the Month could be set for even bigger things ahead.