Two the best players in their generation - nothing else can describe their talent in the current era of cricket. Kohli has proved it across all format of the game. Rohit Sharma is yet to justify his talent in red ball cricket but has been exceptional in ODIs and T20s. Both of them have led the team at various international series and franchise level as well. With the number of years they were in the leadership role, the question arises whether Rohit Sharma stands a touch ahead of Kohli as a Leader? Is he the perfect successor for MS Dhoni in white ball cricket?
We can see similarities in their leadership styles when it comes to the thirst for winning games and dominating the opponents. Both of them stayed away from the cliche- pressures of captaincy affecting batting performance, and are attacking batsmen who can win the game on their own for the team. Both have plenty of experience leading the team and winning games comprehensively.
There are however a few things that differentiate them. Kohli is well placed to become the best Indian captain with the number of matches won already. He is aggressive and expresses his emotion and passion every moment he is out in the field, and at the opponents too. India has won numerous games under his captaincy, but it is fair to say his leadership skills came under test to some extent only during the England tour in 2018. Team selection and bowling changes and strategy in a couple of test matches did raise eyebrows of some former Indian players. Well, let's not go into the test match captaincy. Rohit is not even part of regular test squad.
Comparing leadership based on one match or a series is not the best way to arrive at a judgment. However, let's take Champions Trophy final match in England as an example - the way Kohli handled things when they were bowling shows how bad things can go when he is panicked or when a couple of batsmen in the opposition get going. Aswhin was not finding his rhythm but continued bowling giving away easy runs and introducing Kedhar Jadhav towards final 3-4 overs cost India lot many runs in the end. Often Kohli goes clueless in such situations and has been the pattern in many matches in which India struggled to make a way.
Let's not forget the role MS Dhoni plays when Kohli is in charge. It may be debatable that they have a great understanding with each other, but it does look like Kohli is the captain and Dhoni is the leader. Isn't it even more strange that the captain is fielding in deep boundaries in the last fifteen overs so that he can save runs as he is the quickest fielder in the team? That sounds funny in two ways - you are leaving the leadership with MS Dhoni who is at the twilight of his career and may not be around until the end of Kohli's career; second - a team which boasts of high fitness level and strict Yo-Yo test cant find a fielder who can replace Kohli at the deep. Grooming another player as a replacement for him at the deep position allows him to focus on his role as a leader rather than leaving the entire responsibility to Dhoni. Isn't that a great leader should do or whether Kohli will continue to field in the boundary delegating the responsibility to Rohit or any other vice-captain once Dhoni retires.
It is very common to see Dhoni taking over leadership at crucial stages in ODIs and T20s with the field changes or bowling changes. Kohli may have to deal with a scenario with some inexperienced player behind the wickets soon and can't have the same dependency he has with Dhoni. Kohli may have to improve his leadership to handle those panic scenarios better and come up with new ways to get back into the games in those clueless scenarios to move to the next level which will be required post-MS Dhoni era. As a captain who has won so many games for India, he may have to ensure the stability and position for a player in the team with adequate support and nurture talents which can take the game for India in the future. The current chopping and changing strategy don't help in that scenario as he now has the mantle to bring the team for next decade or so - more like Ganguly or Dravid did in the past.
Rohit Sharma, on the other hand, seems calm and well balanced as a leader. He had a handful of opportunities to lead the team and had done a fantastic job. Like Kohli, Rohit ensured the winning momentum is on and took the responsibility of batting big and long at the top, especially in the absence of one of the best players in the side. There is a calmness with Rohit in his leadership, and he is innovative with his thoughts. He does take valuable suggestions from Dhoni as expected, but never shies away from making his own decisions. He did panic in a recent game against Hong Kong but managed to get back into the game with subtle changes. That doesn't mean he is perfect compared to Kohli but is a touch ahead of Kohli in terms carrying the team as a leader. The kind of communication he has with the bowlers on the ground is something Kohli lacks at times. It’s still early days for him at the international level as a captain, but the experience and credentials in leading his IPL team to the title win multiple times is a testimony to his shrewd captaincy. There are numerous occasions he had led the team to go the long and hard way to win games in IPL. He was much successful in coordinating the team well to get the best out of the resources available compared to how Kohli managed to perform with Royal Challengers Bangalore during multiple seasons.
Now the stats look like this - Kohli has a winning percentage of 48.38 in IPL, 76.47 in ODIs and 64.70 in T20s. Rohit Sharma is far better in IPL with 57.86. It's 87.50 in ODIs and 88.88 T20s respectively though it's too early to make such comparisons based on the number of games Rohit has led the team in these two formats.
It may be too early to say Rohit Sharma is the perfect leader for ODI and T20, yet, he stands out compared to Kohli. His thought process and calmness add another dimension to tackle the difficult situations which put him slightly above Kohli as a leader. Considering him as the captain for white ball format will be a wise choice given Kohli's ever-increasing workload and team's dependency on him as a batsman. It's also a better solution as Rohit Sharma is not a regular member of the test squad but an exceptional talent in white ball cricket and can focus more on that.
It's up to the team management to look at the option to have Rohit as the captain after the next World Cup in England and can also look into other teams like England to analyse how good the 'two-leaders strategy' can work well for the men in blue.
We think that this could redefine the future of Indian cricket. What do you think? Do let us know your thoughts.