India's captain Virat Kohli, left, interviews teammate Rohit Sharma
India's captain Virat Kohli, left, interviews teammate Rohit Sharma after their win in the World Cup match against Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds, on Saturday, July 6, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Five centuries in a Cricket World Cup! That enviable record belongs to Rohit Sharma. He now has six centuries, the same as Sachin Tendulkar – the maximum in World Cup history. One more ton will make the Indian vice-captain the sole custodian of that record. Sharma’s six came from 16 matches, while Tendulkar played 45 innings. That piece of statistics amply illustrates Sharma’s prolific scoring.

In the 2019 tournament, the Indian opener’s scoring spree has been simply phenomenal. With 647 runs from eight innings, at an average of 92.42, he leads the batting charts. Another 27 runs will help him overhaul Tendulkar (673) to become the highest run-getter in a single edition.

Sharma sure has a tremendous appetite for runs. During one of the post-match chats, the Mumbai batsman described his mental preparation for every game. “I come out thinking that I have not played any ODIs. I have not got any hundreds in the tournament. It is just the first game in the tournament."

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It sure did work for him. For, records keep tumbling around Sharma. Did he gird himself to score all those runs and tons? “Not really, not thought about scoring five hundreds. I just go out there and do my job. Not thinking about all these kind of milestones," he said after India beat Sri Lanka. "I know if I play well, all these things will happen along the way. My job is to keep my head straight and get my team to the finishing line.”

What’s the secret behind this purple patch? Sharma credits it to the discipline in his batting, having learned from past mistakes. That discipline is evident in the early part of the innings. For a swashbuckling batsman, the Indian opener is very circumspect at the start. He takes his time to get his eye in before shifting gears. And once he’s in the zone, there’s no stopping Sharma.

The only player to notch three double centuries in One-Day Internationals, including a record high of 264, the Nagpur-born batsman reigns as the king of white ball cricket. The numbers tell only half the story. It does not reflect the aura and authority of his batting.

Sharma is a sheer joy to watch. Very majestic. Much like Vivian Richards and Tendulkar. Like all legendary batsmen, Sharma too seems have to plenty of time to play his shots. Exquisite timing and a silken touch are the hallmarks of his strokeplay. Short deliveries are met with whiplash square-cuts and muscular pulls, both off the front foot and back foot. Pitched-up balls are nonchalantly despatched with wristy flicks and smooth drives.

For a player of such prodigious talent, Sharma career never really took off initially. After a promising international debut in 2007, the first six years as a middle-order batsman were erratic. There were sterling knocks and miserable failures. All that changed in 2013, when the then skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sent him to open the innings. What followed was a deluge of centuries.

He carried that form into the Indian Premier League with breathtaking displays that paved the way for his elevation to captaincy. His tactical acumen propelled Mumbai Indians to four IPL titles.

At 32, Sharma is at the peak of his career. More records await him. He says he has no interest in milestones. "I'm not here for records. I'm here to play and score runs and lift the [World] cup. That is what I'm here for. I'm not looking at all those things at all, honestly."

Will the dream come true? India is one of the favourites. A triumph will be the perfect ending to Sharma’s World Cup odyssey.