India's dominant performance in the recently concluded Asia Cup was one of the highlights of the tournament. Going into the tournament, India and Pakistan were the joint-favourites. However, only India delivered the goods as expected. The anticipated final between the two favourites failed to materialize a result of Bangladesh's impressive win over Pakistan in a knock-out game.
India's batting was rock solid throughout the tournament. Rohit and Shikhar were clearly the best opening pair of the tournament and it was their reliable partnership that put India in a strong position, game after game. Notwithstanding the Asia Cup, these two openers have been India's go-to guys anyway.
When Kohli has been rested in the past, as he was in the Asia Cup this year, Rohit has assumed captaincy duties. Fortunately for India, this transition of captaincy duties has been seamless.
Rohit has been not only impressive as India's stand-in captain but also has not let the extra responsibility of being a captain adversely affect his performance as a batsman. In fact, his win percentage is even better than Kohli's, despite captaining a Kohli-less team. However, given the relatively few games that he's captained, it wouldn't be prudent to compare their win percentages as a fair measure of comparison.
It would be prudent though to look at the captaincy styles of both Kohli and Rohit and assess the qualitative impact their approaches have on the team. Moreover, having two captains in a team is an added advantage in this day and age where international cricket, in the form of Test matches, ODIs, and T20s, is played all year around.
So, let's compare the two in the context of three important qualities of a captain and determine who's better suited to be captain of India.
Kohli is an emotion-filled, in-your-face type of captain who likes to generate momentum and capitalize on that momentum. He overtly displays his anger or disdain over some event or comment and channels the energy from those emotions toward his batting. And it actually benefits his batting.
However, that anger has at times demonstrably affected his thinking as a captain and some of his questionable on-field decisions could be attributed to his clouded state of mind.
Rohit is an exact opposite of Kohli. He appears calm on and off the field but is aggressive in the manner he captains the team on the field. His bowling changes and personnel management methods on the field have been impressive.
Rohit doesn't seem overtly rattled by the happenings on the field and displays a sense of the presence of mind and clarity of thought while making decisions on the field.
One of Kohli's strongest qualities is his ability to influence his teammates by serving as a doer himself. For instance, he instilled the values of being fit into the team culture by becoming the fittest person of the team.
For his hard work and pursuit of excellence, his team respects and looks up to him. While there seems to be an appearance of camaraderie between him and his players, Kohli also instills a sense of fear in his teammates.
There is no question that the team around Rohit seems much more relaxed. Clearly, being relaxed puts them in a better position to perform better on the field. A great example was the final of the Asia Cup. Even though it seemed like India was not going to make it to the target, all the batsmen, even the tail-enders responded and contributed enough to see the team through.
Big Match Captain
Kohli's record as India's captain is impressive, even though a large chunk of matches that India has played since he became captain have been on home soil. But his captaincy in over-seas conditions has often seemed devoid of creative ideas, replete with a defensive mindset and instances of questionable decisions.
Under Kohli, India lost a big Champions Trophy final against a heavy underdog in Pakistan by a whopping 180 runs margin. In that match, his decision to win the toss and elect to field was one of those questionable decisions that left many scratching their heads. Similarly, decisions in South Africa and England not to play practice matches were other examples of a lack of surety in making decisions on big occasions.
The Asia Cup 2018 was one big tournament that Rohit had the opportunity to captain India. He displayed a solid ability to think fast on his feet even in times of pressure such as in the finals against Bangladesh.
Moreover, Rohit's record as a multiple time IPL winning captain of the Mumbai Indians is further testament to his skills as a leader that deliver in big moments.
So, it's clear that Rohit and Kohli are very different types of captains. Both are great students of the game. However, the Indian team inherently deals with enormous external pressures because cricket is followed almost like a religion in India.
A captain who is street-smart, cool-headed, and thick-skinned is ideally suited for this job. On that score, Rohit would make a better captain than Virat.Published 30 Sep 2018, 18:53 IST