Why Rohit Sharma is the best captain India never had
The series between India and Bangladesh was on the line. Bangladesh needed 65 off 42 balls and were coasting with a strong partnership between Mohammad Naim and Mohammad Mithun. Inspiration was needed from somewhere. The pressure was high on India as they were facing a potential series defeat. But a calm and composed Rohit Sharma brought back Deepak Chahar into the attack to break the partnership and it worked wonders. Mithun was caught at long-off and India had broken a dangerous partnership.
Rohit took this opportunity to talk to the team in a huddle and motivated them to put their best foot forward. His pep talk worked like a charm and India ended up winning the game convincingly and as a result, the series. Rohit's captaincy was top notch and garnered praise for his leadership under pressure. With this, a topic of great debate resurfaced again- was it the right time to implement split captaincy in India by handing the reigns of white-ball cricket to Rohit while Virat Kohli continued to lead the Test side? Is Kohli too big a player to play under Rohit the way MS Dhoni has played under Kohli since 2017 in white-ball cricket?
It all started in 2013 when Rohit Sharma took the mantle of the captaincy of Mumbai Indians from the great Ricky Ponting as the latter dropped himself to the bench due to poor form. Sharma led Mumbai brilliantly for the rest of the games and gave them their maiden IPL title. The world took notice of Rohit's leadership ability for the very first time. The following year saw Mumbai Indians lose their first five games, only to win seven from their next nine to dramatically qualify for the playoffs, chasing 192 in just 14.4 overs. Rohit's ability to get the best out of players like Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, etc. when the chips were down was extremely heartening.
It was the 2015 season of IPL where two of India's current stars were nurtured under the captaincy of Rohit Sharma. Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah both had breakout seasons with MI and ever since have become an integral part of the MI setup, winning the title that year too. Hardik turned out to be the all-rounder that India had craved for years and his big-hitting ability has made him the finisher India wanted. Bumrah arguably has become one of the best bowlers in the world, particularly in death overs with his ability to bowl yorkers at will and subtle variations.
Leading MI to two more titles in 2017 and 2019, Rohit Sharma has become the only IPL captain with four titles. His win percentage with MI is as high as 57.69 having won 60 out of the 104 games that he has captained. The likes of Krunal Pandya, Mayank Markande and Rahul Chahar also thrived under his captaincy and have got a look-in in the Indian T20 team. It is Rohit's ability to remain calm under pressure and motivate the players to get the best out of them is what make him a fantastic captain.
On the international stage too, Rohit has been a fantastic deputy to Kohli and has captained the team brilliantly in his absence. He was first given the captaincy when Kohli had taken a break from cricket to get married to actress Anushka Sharma and when Sri Lanka had visited India. India lost a one-sided game as the Men in Blue were skittled for just 112 as Sri Lanka went on to win the game easily. But Rohit showed his captaincy skills and led from the front scoring his third ODI double hundred in the very next game. His fielding strategies and bowling changes were spot-on as India won the series 2-1.
Rohit also led from the front for India in the 2018 Nidahas Trophy which India won due to a fantastic cameo from Dinesh Karthik (29 off 8 balls) in the final against Bangladesh. Karthik later revealed that he was extremely unhappy to bat down the order at number seven but it was Rohit's masterstroke as he believed that Karthik had the ability to finish games and so he did. This masterstroke also brought praises from all over the cricketing world about Rohit Sharma's captaincy.
Another big moment for Rohit as a skipper was winning the 2018 Asia Cup. India was playing without Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya, who got injured against Pakistan and was subsequently ruled out of the tournament. Despite the absence of these crucial players, Rohit managed to win the Asia Cup which was an extremely big achievement.
Although Kohli has been a fantastic captain for India in white-ball cricket too, India's exit from the 2019 World Cup further sparked the captaincy debate. Although the majority of the supporters backed Kohli, there were few portions who began to believe that Rohit was a better captain in limited-overs cricket. With Rohit being 32 and Kohli being 31, it would be extremely unlikely to see Rohit captain the Indian side when both are playing together.
One could not help but imagine what a great captain Rohit could have been for India had he been playing for India in a different era. Perhaps that is why he is the best captain India will never have.Published 10 Jan 2020, 17:30 IST