Rohit Sharma
India's Rohit Sharma watches his shot against Bangladesh. Image Credit: PTI

Batsmen with a special ability of hitting sixes are considered ultimate entertainers in cricket. Rohit Sharma, as the best hitter of sixes in Indian cricket, has been enthralling his fans. What makes him special is the fact that he is not big built nor is he muscular, but his hits sail into the stands, sometimes even out of the stadium!

During the recent World Cup, I had witnessed all his sixes, most of them were hit without any change of expression on his face. It was all about timing and confidence. From the moment he hit them, he knew they would clear the ground.

I have always been in awe of batsmen who can hit their sixes with ease. Before turning a cricket writer, I was one among the many in the crowd at the University Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, pleading former Indian batsman Salim Durani to hit sixes during an exhibition match, and he obliged us too. This handsome left-handed batsman was India’s most popular sixer-hitter in the Sixties and early Seventies and had the reputation of hitting sixes on demand.

Years later, during an interview, I asked him how he did that and Durani said: “If the crowd requests me, then I have to do it and I did it.”

I have never missed an opportunity to ask the great hitters on what pushed them to hit sixes. West Indies’ Chris Gayle had candidly revealed that he always played for the crowd: “They (fans) come to watch me hit sixes. I am an entertainer and I love to entertain them.”

So did Shahid Afridi, who too was very frank, and said: “I like to hit hard, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Statistics reveal that they both have succeeded on most occasions. Gayle leads the six-hitting table in international cricket with 534 sixes followed by Afridi with 476 sixes.

The mindset of those who hit sixes is also different. Once during a conversation with Virender Sehwag, I asked about his thought process when hitting sixes, and he explained it in his typical style. “I would always aim for the ball to land in the galleries, but it is important to get into that frame of mind to hit it,” he said.

Thus it becomes clear that the ability to hit sixes must be inbuilt in the players’ character. Once they have it in them, then sixes are bound to happen. This explains Sharma’s statement on how he manages to strike those sixes without muscles but with timing, and how he has worked hard to sharpen this skill.

No wonder, for many, Sharma is more exciting to watch than some of the prolific batsmen of this generation like a Virat Kohli or Steve Smith.