PRASENJIT DEY | 8 NOVEMBER, 2018
Rohit Sharma Seems Ready, But Is India Ready for Split Captaincy?
'Omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent'
There are three words that we can associate only with God. According to our beliefs, He is Omnipotent (all powerful), Omniscient (all knowing) and Omnipresent (present everywhere at all times). It is quite impossible to associate these qualities with a mere human being.
However, on Tuesday evening, it seemed like we could associate the same words with Rohit Sharma as he first bludgeoned his way to a mesmerising innings of 111 not out, then marshaled his bowling unit beautifully to lead India to a 71-run victory over the Windies in the second T20I at Lucknow.
He displayed his omnipotent capabilities with the bat as he demolished the Windies bowling lineup on a track which was found to be difficult to bat on by most other batsmen in the match. The ground had one of the longest boundaries all around and yet, he continued to send the ball sailing into the stands over and over again.
When his destruction with the bat was over, he displayed his leadership skills on the field by making proper bowling changes from time to time. It seemed like he had the perfect sense of time – when to bring which bowler into the attack – and that is how he managed his resources efficiently. The fields that he set for each of the bowlers showed his vision as it brought success to each of them. It seemed like he had the knowledge that no one else did, something that no one else could tap into – omniscient qualities you could say.
And he was there at the right positions every time while taking important catches. The ball kept chasing him and he responded with brilliant catches. He was there in the slips, he was there at square leg and then he was there at mid-off too. You could find him wherever you turned your eyes. It seemed like he was omnipresent.
This kind of performance has certainly raised his stocks as a leader and once again brings into debate the question whether India should have split captaincy across formats. Sharma has now captained India in a total of 8 ODIs, winning 7, and 11 T20Is, winning 10. He also has one major trophy in the Asia Cup to his name as captain. He led India superbly throughout the campaign and had shown great composure and situational awareness.
Surely, he seems ready and set to lead India regularly as far as the shorter formats are concerned. But the real question is whether India is ready for split captaincy with Virat Kohli at the helm. There is a saying, ‘Why fix something which is not broken?’ Under Kohli’s leadership, India has hardly put a wrong foot forward in all these years, across formats. India has only scaled higher heights. So looking at the overall results, it might seem there is no need to think about anyone besides Kohli to lead this side.
However, there have been occasions when Kohli’s tactics as a captain have been questionable. His frequently changing the playing XI across matches, the ‘horses for courses’ theory, has often been criticised from all quarters of the cricket fraternity.
He seems to be in command as a leader as long as he is out there in the middle with the bat in hand. However, things change when he is on the field marshalling his bowlers and bringing the bowling changes. The fields he sets have often been defensive and have lacked the attacking edge. His handling of bowlers hasn’t been that great either.
He also appears to get carried away with emotions and not think straight. He is a proven leader though. India won the U-19 World Cup under his leadership in 2008, and reached the finals of the Champions Trophy 2017 under his leadership too.
Even in that mega event, apart from the final, there was a match in the group stage against Sri Lanka which India lost. And that was because of India’s failure to take wickets and put the Sri Lankan batsmen under pressure. Kohli has often looked like lacking vision and ideas under pressure.
Sharma, on the other hand, has displayed superb ability in such situations. India found themselves under pressure in the match against Hong Kong in the Asia Cup. The openers threatened to take the match away from India. But Sharma held his nerve, maintained his composure, kept trying different things, changed his tactics and finally succeeded in turning the momentum of the match in their favour.
The best part about his captaincy is his pro-activeness and improvisation skills. He doesn’t get carried away by situations and responds well under pressure. He also has a good eye for recognising good players and at the same time, he has the ability to bring the best out of them. He showed that by handing Khaleel Ahmed the duty with the new ball ahead of Jasprit Bumrah in the previous two T20Is. And the youngster flourished in that role, picking up wickets on each of those occasions. That is why he succeeds in achieving the desired results more often than not. He listens to what his players think would benefit them and their team as a whole. It is an important quality that makes a leader successful.
Kohli, on the other hand, gives his batsmen the freedom to play their natural game but at the same time, he likes to have control over the bowling unit. He likes to go in with a predetermined approach with his bowling unit in which he likes to assign each bowler a particular role that he thinks they would succeed in.
Sharma has only gotten better as a player ever since he was bestowed upon with the responsibility of leading the Mumbai Indians in the IPL. It is visible in the way he has played while leading the Indian side as well. He has 534 runs to his name at a staggering average of 106.80 with the bat in the 8 ODIs he has played as a captain. In T20Is, the figure stands at 463 runs in 11 matches at an average of 46.30; and those runs include two centuries.
So it is quite clear that India have another candidate to look up to as their leader apart from Kohli, at least in the shorter formats. While Kohli is a naturally aggressive leader, who knows only one way to lead the side, Sharma is a tactician who has improvisational skills highly necessary in the shorter formats.
England have a split captaincy method . While Joe Root leads the side in Tests, it is Eoin Morgan who leads them in the shorter formats. India could do the same. At least, India could make a start by handing the mantle of T20I captaincy to Rohit Sharma. His approach is highly suitable for that format. Virat Kohli can still continue to lead the side in ODIs and Tests. But a major question still remains.
Are they ready to accept the change and look beyond their superstar culture? Only time will tell.