11 Twenty20 international wins in 12 games – a win percentage of over 90 as India’s T20 captain. Seven one-day international wins in eight matches – a win percentage of almost 90 as India’s ODI captain. Rohit Sharma certainly seems to be doing something right.
The sample size may not be large enough, but whatever inferences can be drawn from it, they hold Rohit’s captaincy in superb stead.
Many would bet in favour of the proposition that if Virat Kohli were leading India in the Asia Cup, KL Rahul would have got a game ahead of Ambati Rayudu after Rahul’s Test hundred in the dead rubber against England. ‘Current form’, remember?
But Rohit is his own man and has a different outlook from Kohli. Hence, Rayudu got to express himself and cement his spot in the Indian ODI team. In the T20I series against the Windies as well, apart from the forced change of bringing back the recovered Bhuvneshwar Kumar in place of Umesh Yadav, Rohit did not tinker with the side.
Even while making that change, he made sure to convey that he would have given Umesh a longer run if possible. “We have Bhuvi back in our team, in place of Umesh. It is good to have Bhuvneshwar Kumar back, but it is unfortunate for Umesh Yadav to miss only after one match but team composition is very important,” Rohit said at the toss before the 2nd T20I.
It could have been very convenient for him to follow the system put in place by the regular captain Virat Kohli or get lost in his shadow. Instead, he decided to do it his own way.
Sharma self admittedly is a bit like MS Dhoni. "He [Dhoni] is a very calm person. His actions too reflect calmness. I am also a similar type of person. That is why I relate a lot to him… Whatever I have seen of him leading the side for all these years, he never panicked, took time while taking decisions. There are those similarities in me too,” the interim skipper said.
The Mumbaikar has more in common with the likes of Dhoni than just his calmness. In fact, he falls in line with the lineage of Indian captains who identified their players and then persisted with them long enough to help their talent unfold at the biggest stage. Even if their moves didn't reap instant rewards, they had a long-term strategy in place.
Sourav Ganguly picked his bunch of players in Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Ashish Nehra and then stuck to them. This made that ‘team’ one of the most successful Indian outfits of all times. Right or wrong, MS Dhoni hardly abandoned Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin during his captaincy tenure and was even criticised for it.
If Dhoni was at one end of the spectrum, Kohli is at the other.
Holding the record of not playing an unchanged XI for 38 Test matches cannot be a badge of honour as Kohli tries to wear it. More than showcasing the versatility of the side, it displays the frazzled thinking that goes into picking the final XI. The team is not out there to play musical chairs, after all.
All great sides have had a settled core group of players, and only a couple of guys were mixed and matched. Virat’s tenure as captain has left the entire Indian setup with an air of uncertainty. And sure enough, Kohli’s role comes under the scanner. It's hard to believe that the selectors are not influenced by his stature.
The combined decisions of the Indian team management (read Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri), or it is perceived so, have created a deep-rooted sense of insecurity among both youngsters and senior players. This policy of rejecting players rather than selecting them can do irreparable damage to the mindset of players not just at the uppermost deck but at the ‘A’ level and downwards from thereon.
Karun Nair remains the strongest case in point. Warming the bench for subsequent Test series and missing out on the ‘A’ series in the process, has left his career in the doldrums. Interestingly enough, Hanuma Vihari, for no understandable fault of his, is expected to lose his Test place to Rohit Sharma. Dinesh Karthik must also be trying to get around his shortcomings to warrant an axing from the ODI set up.
Being the same age as Virat, in fact, a year older, Rohit will not harbour too much ambition of becoming the full-time captain. But whatever you see of him as skipper, leaves you pondering: “What if Virat were a bit like Rohit”.
Because when the ever-excited Ravi Shastri says that someone has a ‘calming influence’ on the team, it must count for something.