In his first six years of One-Day International cricket, Rohit Sharma was merely a shadow of the batsman he is today. Then came the 2013 Champions Trophy, the right-hander was promoted to the opener’s role, and that switch helped him achieve a feat that many thought unattainable.
In the history of ODI cricket, a double-century in a single innings has been hit by six different batsmen. While five of them – Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, Martin Guptill and Fakhar Zaman – have done it once each, Rohit has achieved the milestone a staggering three times.
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All three of Rohit’s double-tons have one thing in common – the second half of each knock saw a much-higher strike-rate. It is well known that the Mumbaikar has his own method as an opener, where he takes his time at the start before making up for the lost time with minimum fuss.
And that is precisely what leaves fans in awe. Rohit’s ability to find gaps and play big shots once he is set is one of the most thrilling aspects of white-ball cricket. Once he is set and in the mood to attack, it’s almost a given that the ball will find the fence once it comes in contact with his bat.
Records are meant to be broken, but it’s hard to imagine Rohit’s feat of three double-centuries in ODI cricket being matched.
Here’s a recap of those unforgettable knocks:
209 vs Australia – Bengaluru, 2013
It had only been a few months since Rohit had been promoted up the order to open the innings. Australia were touring India for a seven-match ODI series. It was the final game and the score was locked at 2-2 after the fourth and fifth ODIs yielded no results. The visitors won the toss and decided to bowl first on a traditionally flat pitch at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Rohit had done enough by then to prove that he was suited to bat up the order. He was always a great timer of the ball and the field restrictions early on helped him keep up his strike-rate by finding the gaps. But no one could have imagined he would go on to make such an emphatic statement.
Australia’s attack, which comprised of Clint McKay, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Shane Watson, Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell, was taken to the cleaners in stunning fashion. Rohit smashed 209 runs off 158 deliveries, with 12 fours and 16 sixes (a record at that time), to help India post 383/6 and clinch the series with a 57-run win.
“I didn’t really think of the 200 initially,” Rohit had said after the match. “Right from ball one I wanted to stay there. I’m enjoying opening at the moment, just want to keep continuing and remain fresh.”
264 vs Sri Lanka – Kolkata, 2014
For a long time in international one-dayers, a team total of 250-plus runs was considered competitive, even match-winning. On November 13, 2014, Rohit alone scored 264 runs in an ODI innings. The enormity of that achievement cannot be emphasised enough. That knock remains the highest score by a batsman in an ODI innings to date, and it’s hard to imagine it ever being eclipsed.
India had a familiar visitor in Sri Lanka for a five-match series. The hosts won the first three matches comfortably to seal the series and the action shifted to the Eden Gardens for the fourth ODI. Sri Lanka weren’t high on confidence and their attack, comprising Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Pradeep, Akila Dananjaya and Sachith Pathirana, wasn’t the most threatening.
Even so, Rohit put on an absolute masterclass that day. He hit 264 runs off 173 balls, with nine sixes and a jaw-dropping 33 fours. His tally of fours in that innings remains a record to date, with Tendulkar’s 25 fours during his own double-ton being a distant second on the list. India posted a mammoth 404/5 in that match to win by 153 runs and take a 4-0 lead in the series.
“I was amazed later on when I found out that I had 33 fours in that innings,” Rohit said on the show Breakfast With Champions in 2017. “Entire teams usually don’t hit those many boundaries and I had managed to do it alone. I was really happy with the effort since I was returning from a finger injury and was very nervous before the match.”
In that interview, Rohit even narrated a hilarious conversation he had with Duncan Fletcher, with the then-India coach telling him he “could have scored a triple-century if he hadn’t played slowly at the start”.
208* vs Sri Lanka – Mohali, 2017
The last of Rohit’s three ODI double-centuries came, again, versus Sri Lanka. The visitors had taken a 1-0 lead in the three-match series and it was a must-win game for India at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.
Sri Lanka won the toss, put India in to bat, and ended up paying a heavy price for it. Rohit was at his best and went on to play a fascinating innings. He remained not-out on 208 runs off 153 balls to help India post 392/4 and earn a 141-run victory. The Indian opener’s stay at the crease that day was truly remarkable. He got to 100 runs in 115 deliveries and scored his remaining 108 runs in just 38 balls. He hit 13 fours and 12 sixes in that knock and put on an exhibition of power-hitting in his inimitable style.
“It was a great day,” Rohit had said after picking up his player of the match award. “If I am not wrong, in the first two 200s as well I got the century in the 38-39th over. I kept telling myself to hold my shape and hit through the line while I batted through to the 50th over. I knew that unless I made a mistake, I wouldn’t get out. People keep asking me to pick one [his favourite double-century] but I really can’t. That one against Australia was the series decider, the earlier one against Sri Lanka was one where I was coming back from a three-month injury layoff, and this one was necessary to keep the series alive after a humiliating loss.”