If it wasn't for the unbelievable record of Virat Kohli in ODIs, cricket fans would be in incomparable awe of Rohit Sharma's greatness in the 50-over format. What he has achieved in limited-overs cricket belies belief and would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. Three double centuries in ODIs and five centuries in one World Cup are two of his great achievements.
But those fans who have a long memory and have followed his career right from the beginning would know that it wasn't always easy going for the Mumbai batsman. In fact, by the end of 2012, Sharma, with more than five years of international cricket under his belt, was being regarded as another wasted talent in the annals of Indian cricket.
Despite being in the Indian ODI team since 2007 and playing some good innings, Sharma failed to make the cut for the 2011 World Cup squad. But he was still in the early part of his career. After the World Cup, on India's tour of West Indies, with senior players rested, Sharma got another opportunity and took it, being India's best batsmen in the five-match series.
Later that year, when the Windies team came to India, he again showed great form and was again prolific in the 5-match ODI series, this time, on home soil. It seemed that Rohit's career was not only back on track but on the speedway to great success.
This was also the time when the Indian Test team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni was plumbing new depths of poor performance. A whitewash in England was followed by another drubbing in Australia. While the side was getting hammered by the Aussies, there was a chorus for getting Sharma into the Test team.
However, he didn't get a chance in the 2011/12 4-Test series in Australia. But this wasn't so much of a setback as he was now a regular member of the ODI team. But then things went pear-shaped for the right-hander. The 2012 tri-series in Australia, featuring Sri Lanka alongside the hosts and India, saw Rohit failing to make a mark.
He probably reached the lowest point of his career when, in a 5-match ODI series in Sri Lanka later that year, he registered single-digit scores in all the five matches. Batting suddenly seemed a forgotten art for Rohit. Even after that series, there wasn't any success in any format. Constantly being hailed as 'talented,' he was now being taunted endlessly by fans.
The big turning point
In January 2013, England played a five-match ODI series in India. The team management had an idea about how to bring a turnaround in Rohit's fortunes. They decided to turn him into an opener in the 50-over format. In the fourth ODI of the series, played on January 23 at Mohali, Sharma opened the Indian innings alongside Gautam Gambhir when the team chased a target of 258.
The plan worked! Rohit ended up scoring a brilliant 83 that played a leading role in India's 5-wicket win. Suddenly, statisticians started pointing out how Sachin Tendulkar's ODI career had a complete transformation after he became an opener in 1994. Many thought to compare Rohit with the Little Master was premature.
What happened next?
But the faith of many fans and experts proved to be justified. Even though Rohit failed in the next innings, he did brilliantly in the Champions Trophy later in 2013 where he formed the now-famous opening partnership with Shikhar Dhawan. This cemented Rohit's place in the side and he never looked back.
Towards the end of 2013, in a 7-match ODI series against Australia, Rohit reached massive heights of success when he played some astonishing innings. But it was in the final match of that series that he stunned everyone by scoring his first double century in ODI cricket. It was only the third time that any batsman had reached that milestone in this format.
So, now that Rohit is established as an ODI great and is only getting better, he can look back to January 23, 2013, as the day when his career took the big turn that set him on course to becoming a modern-day legend.