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A statistical analysis of whether Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma should be India's ODI captain

Roald Grobler
3.51K   //    05 Aug 2019, 20:04 IST

The Indian cricket team
The Indian cricket team

India suffered a disappointing exit at the recent World Cup. They dominated the group phase but eventually lost a nail-biting semi-final versus New Zealand, crushing the hopes of a billion fans. 

In the aftermath of the event, the nation seems torn in half regarding the captaincy argument. One half advocates that Virat Kohli stays on, despite a below-par World Cup, to steer the ship in the new era. The other side of the party vouches for Rohit Sharma, the team’s vice-captain, to be appointed skipper.

Sharma’s supporters reason that changes need to be implemented in order for India to improve as a team. Either way, it makes for a fascinating discussion.

Let’s do an analysis of both players, and try to reach a conclusion to the debate.

Why Sharma should be captain

Rohit Sharma is usually very active on the field
Rohit Sharma is usually very active on the field

India have lost their previous four knockout matches at ICC tournaments (all of them under Kohli’s captaincy). Judging by these repeated failures in crunch matches, changes will be forthcoming. 

Team India needs new ideas and a fresh perspective. And Sharma, having captained Mumbai Indians for so long in the IPL, is the ideal man to take over the captaincy role in this regard. He has also made it a habit of interacting with the players in all of India's ODI games, which suggests he shares good camaraderie with the players.

Why Kohli should stay on

Kohli’s side of the argument is equally credible. India have enjoyed a lot of success under his stewardship. They are currently ranked second in the world, which speaks volumes of his captaincy. 

Getting rid of Kohli now will run the risk of stalling their progress.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli

The personality traits

Let us move on to the human side of the pair.

Kohli and Sharma are two completely different characters. Once known for his sudden outbursts, Kohli has mellowed quite dramatically over the years. He has become a player who underplays his personal achievements and, instead, praises his team-mates. 

The 30-year-old also has a sense of self-belief that is second to none. This trait inspires his teammates to lift their game and scale greater heights.

If Kohli is flamboyant, then Sharma is understated. Sharma seems completely unfazed by pressure. This attribute will be a major plus for India should he be appointed captain.

Captaincy CV

Kohli and Sharma have won an abundance of titles between them. Let us start with Kohli.

The batsman rose to eminence at the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 2008, which India won. As captain of the Indian ODI team, Kohli has led the Men in Blue to the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy and the semifinal of the 2019 World Cup.

Sharma can boast of an even more illustrious CV. He was appointed the Mumbai Indians’ captain in 2013 and has steered them to four IPL titles since. He also led India to Asia Cup success in 2018, in a tournament also contested by Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.

Sharma wins this category by a margin of 2:1.

Overall stats as captain of India

Kohli is a seasoned skipper for the Men in Blue. He took over the ODI baton from MS Dhoni in 2013 and has been at the helm for the majority of the last six years. All in all, Kohli has captained India in 77 ODI matches, of which 56 have ended in victory. 

Sharma, by comparison, is still finding his feet. He has led India on 10 occasions, of which eight have been wins. 

Kohli clearly wins this battle. If the selectors want an experienced captain to groom the next crop of young players and prepare them for the World Cup 2023, then Kohli is their man.

Batting stats as captain

Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma

Kohli averages 77.39 as captain, including 19 centuries. His average plunges to 51.29 when he is not captain.

Sharma’s stats tell a similar story. He averages 77.57 as captain, as opposed to 47.73 when not.

Both players clearly relish the added responsibility that captaincy brings, but Kohli wins this contest because of his consistency over a long period of time.

That said, both players have outstanding overall records. Kohli, a 236-match veteran, has a stupendous career average of 59.40, including 41 centuries.

Sharma, who has 215 matches to his name, has also enjoyed a stellar career and his average is fractionally under 49.


Both Kohli and Sharma have different qualities, which makes it difficult to choose between them.

Kohli has been a competent captain and has served India well for over six years, but in the interest of a fresh approach I think the best option (looking towards the future) is Sharma. 

India will enter a new era very soon and players such as Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar and Navdeep Saini will get ample opportunities. Exciting times are ahead for Team India and leading the charge, with his sensational batting, astute leadership and good people-skills, should be Rohit Sharma.