Rohit Sharma led Mumbai Indians to an unprecedented fifth IPL title, extending his record as the most successful captain in the tournament’s history.
His unparalleled success in the IPL has often led his ardent supporters to back him as the captain of India’s T20 side, with several former stars joining the bandwagon after the recent win.
So, should Rohit take over India’s T20 captaincy?
Rohit has definitely made a strong case for himself. He has collected five IPL trophies and a Champions League Twenty20 title in eight years since being appointed the MI skipper.
Over the years, he has showcased his tactical acumen by making optimum use of the available resources. He is able to extract the best out of his players. Two of India’s vital players — Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya — flourished under Rohit at MI.
Rohit has also proved his credentials in the international arena. In the absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli, he has led the Men in Blue in 19 T20Is, suffering four defeats to register an impressive 78.94 winning percentage.
Rohit was the captain in the Nidahas Trophy, and it was his belief in Dinesh Karthik’s finishing abilities that India famously won the final against Bangladesh.
In ODIs, India has lost just twice in 10 outings under Rohit. The 2018 Asia Cup win in Dubai with a second-string team also came with the opener at the helm.
In the IPL, Kohli’s record as captain, unlike his batting, is underwhelming, to say the least.
RCB has finished four times in the bottom three, including twice in the last spot, under him. They’ve reached the playoffs just three times, contesting the final once, which they lost.
On the other hand, Kohli, who became the limited-overs skipper in 2017, has an enviable record in ODIs. The team has lost just 24 of the 62 games played under him. He led India to its maiden bilateral series wins in South Africa and Australia.
In T20s, the talismanic skipper has captained India in 37 outings, winning 22 of them.
But despite the numbers, the fact of the matter remains that Kohli is yet to lead India to victory in a major tournament. Under him, India lost the 2017 Champions Trophy final to Pakistan, while in the 2019 World Cup the Men in Blue were knocked out in the semi-finals.
WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY ?
World Cup-winning opener Gautam Gambhir has gone on to say that it would be a shame if a leader like Rohit is not appointed India’s T20I captain.
“If Rohit Sharma doesn’t become India’s captain, it’s their loss, not Rohit’s,” Gambhir told ESPNcricinfo.
Former England skippers Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan have also backed Rohit for the leadership role in T20 format, saying that the MI skipper has the knack of making right decisions at the opportune moments and his record is a testament to his success.
“His captaincy, he is calm, cool, makes the right decisions at the right time and he has had such a good time with MI that there are various cricketers around the world now, including in India, saying that maybe it is time for Virat to step down from T20s and let Rohit take over. His record speaks for himself,” Hussain was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
“Without question Rohit Sharma should be the Indian T20 captain fantastic man manager & leader, he knows exactly how to win T20 games.. it would also give Virat chance to take a breather and just be the player it’s works for all other teams around the world,” Vaughan tweeted.
WILL SPLIT CAPTAINCY WORK?
The idea of split captaincy is not a new one. England, Australia and West Indies all have successfully adopted the strategy.
England has Joe Root as the Test captain while Eoin Morgan controls the reigns in white-ball cricket. Under Morgan’s leadership, the team has tasted great success, lifting their maiden ODI World Cup last year while also reaching the finals of the World T20 in 2016.
Similarly, Aaron Finch and Tim Paine have done well to lead Australia in limited overs and red-ball formats, respectively.
Split captaincy has also worked wonders for West Indies. In Jason Holder they have a calm Test skipper while in T20’s Darren Sammy led them to two World Cup triumphs.
But despite the success of the strategy in other countries, the BCCI has been unwilling to appoint different captains for different formats.
There is also the question of how Kohli will react. According to Hussain an “imposing character” like him will not be comfortable sharing power.
“It depends on the character, Virat is such an imposing character, all encompassing, it would be difficult for him to hand over, he wouldn’t want to hand anything over,” Hussain had said during a podcast on Cricbuzz.
India is blessed to have a skipper who is brilliant in all three formats. Handing over the T20 captaincy to Rohit could lessen Kohli’s workload, giving him a break from the continuous pressure of leading a team. But it is unlikely that the BCCI will make any changes now with the T20 World Cup at home less than a year away.
However, if Rohit goes on to have another successful IPL season and Kohli fails to claim the T20 trophy then the former will have an iron-clad case and with the next T20 World Cup (2022 in Australia) looming close the management could opt for the change.