The book of cricket clearly says that if a batsman like Rohit Sharma isn’t picking the direction of spin then he should try strokes like a cross-batted stroke, like a sweep or a reverse sweep. The options help to widen the second line of defense. Sweeping a legspinner helps a batsman to avoid the chances of getting an outside edge or the chances of the ball going through bat-pad also reduces for a right-hander.
A flipper, a top spinner, and a slider are one of the most common variations for a legspinner. While when he flights the balls he has only two options of a leg break or a googly. In this position chances of not picking that variation, therefore, is 50%.
So when Rohit Sharma played a deliberate sweep off Amit Mishra against Delhi Daredevils last week, it wasn’t the worst option. Perhaps Rohit swept that ball more because of the disbelieve in his ability to differentiate the googly from a leg break as he is having a miserable form against leg spinners this IPL.
In Mumbai’s opening game against RPS, Rohit was dismissed by a slider bowled by Imran Tahir as his feet rooted to the crease. He was deceived in the pace and didn’t pick the variation as well. Rohit played Tahir with more confidence and planning in Mumbai’s loss to RPS at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday night. He smashed 23 runs off 15 balls but still finding it difficult to pick the regular leg break from the googly.
Earlier in the season, Rohit was dismissed on a googly from Rashid Khan against Sunrisers Hyderabad, another delivery he failed to pick. He even failed to read Samuel Badree’s hat-trick ball, another googly that lurked between bat and pad.
Rohit played an innings of unbeaten 29-ball 40 against Gujarat Lions, who didn’t have any wrist spinners. Against Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunil Narine found him lbw – although to a poor umpiring decision. The choice of stroke in all these dismissals was similar as he offered a full face of the bat at the ball.
Before the last game against RPS on Monday, Rohit was dismissed by right-arm spinners five times and scored just five runs in 15 balls. Rohit explained about his approach to leg spin after his unbeaten 40 against Lions, he said, “I was trying to play with the spin, which is what we’re taught, but these [legspinners] were bowling googlies, so I had to play against it. I decided to not play in the ‘V’. I know it sounds stupid to not to play in the ‘V’ but that’s how it is now.”
Although Rohit was facing some problems against leg spin before this season as well. Excluding the first edition of the IPL, his highest strike-rate against leg spinners was 133.33 in 2012.
It seems that the only solution left for Rohit to conquer this problem is to open the innings. He does it for India in T20Is and has also opened for Mumbai in previous seasons. He said that he pushed himself down the order to improve the balance of the batting line-up and also opens up the possibility of him finishing games.
However, pushing Buttler down the order wouldn’t have an adverse effect on Mumbai’s top order much, nor would it upset their balance. He has played 52 of his 53 T20I innings in the middle order, with a promising strike rate of 139.20. Buttler has played the role of the finisher for England for his whole international career. Rohit has batted in the top order for the majority of his career. A simple exchange can make results more in MI’s favor and their resources will also be efficiently utilized.