Like most people, my first look at Rohit Sharma was in the IPL.
He looked good.
Other than a tendency to play across the line a bit too much, like Ross Taylor, there is much to like about him.
He has timing, balance, class and power.
Sharma also has the ability to annoy. Like Ian Bell, Jacob Oram and a young Shane Watson, he is the player fans love to hate.
In true Ian Bell style it is exactly because he is so talented that people hate him. Even though he is only 23, he has already burnt through more Indian fans than most 30 year old cricketers would have.
This is by starting his innings looking really good, and then fucking up with a stupid shot.
The thing with Sharma is always the stupid shot. He isn’t the first talented player to regularly go out to stupid shots. In the 90s Carl Hooper and Mark Waugh would spend hours trying to out class each other, and then play a shot so stupid that you could barely believe it came from them.
But the difference is that these guys also made big runs, helped their sides win important games and had long careers.
Sharma has turned up on the scene with so much talent it drips off him until he is standing in a puddle, and so many stupid shots he looks like he is auditioning to be Keith Arthurton.
Before I became a wheezing lung in the online cricket community, I might never have known many Indians hated Rohit. Back in the analogue days I got all my information on Indian cricketers from Melbourne’s taxi drivers. They seemed to hate everyone except for Sachin.
Now I am inundated with Sharma hate. In the comments here, on other blogs, on twitter and in friend’s facebook updates.
Most of this hate comes not from his occasionally brilliant, yet often frustrating performances for Deccan. It seems to come from the fact he plays so well for Deccan, and so badly for India.
In 42 ODIs Sharma has managed to average 25 with a strike rate of 72. That wasn’t a good record in 1988, it sure isn’t these days.
Indians remember records like that. They also remember all those stupid shots.
Yet against the Aussies, where Gautham looked worried, Raina looked overawed, Vijay looked confused and Yuvraj looked hungry, it was Sharma who stood up.
He had some luck; he didn’t have to face as much of the raw sexual energy of Dirty Dirk in his pomp, or Tait’s stuff. By the time he came in they were finishing up and he could start the resistance.
In the end he was the resistance. With no other Indian batsman looking like they deserved to be clothed in their country’s shirt, he stood tall and did his dandiest to get India close and not play one of those stupid shots he is so fond of.
There was a sort of lone wolf feel to the innings, like the guy in the kung fu film who ends up fighting 12 people on his own and taking down about 8 before he is eventually stopped and taken to the bad guy’s headquarters.
While Sharma’s one day record is on the poor side of shithouse, his International T20 career is shaping up nicely.
For the short term he will remain the punch line of many Indian fans’ jokes, but at 23 he might just hang around long enough to laugh last. Although I personally hope he keeps a few stupid shots in his repertoire, as they make my job easier.