For years captaincy of the Indian Cricket Team has been considered the second most important job in the country by cricket-crazy fans, next only to the Prime Minister. The rigours and stresses that an Indian Captain faces are extreme since expectations are sky-high. As the job is a highly coveted one, it is handed over to only the most experienced player of the team. However, in recent months, it is being tossed around like the ‘Pass the Parcel’ game played at birthday parties of middle-class families, becoming a bit of a joke with 7 captains in as many months of 2022.
Shikhar Dhawan is the latest inclusion in the list after being made the skipper for the upcoming West Indies tour. The move comes barely a few days after Jasprit Bumrah was made captain for the crucial final test against England. Losing that test was not only an opportunity lost to beat England in a Test series in their home conditions after 2007 but also a big blow to India’s chances to reach the finals of the World Test Championship.
It is perplexing that Bumrah who had never captained any side earlier was given the charge; extremely unfair to give him this tough baptism. As many feared before the game, he floundered. It was felt by many experts that he under-bowled himself, especially in some crucial phases. He was the best Indian bowler on display but as a captain, his attention was divided and he tried to bowl others more when the team needed him to provide breakthroughs. Bumrah’s naivete and discomfort in his new assignment, coupled with a misplaced sense of trying to ensure fair treatment for other bowlers, proved costly in the crunch game.
A key question troubling everyone’s mind – once Rohit was injured why was Virat not asked to hold the fort for One Test? If the offer was made by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), as some are suggesting, the point is why was it not made openly so as to put pressure on Virat to accept? Such a move would also have ensured and enhanced Kohli’s dignity which was badly compromised when he was so unceremoniously dumped from captaincy last winter. Ultimately, Bumrah being given the reins led to a disappointing loss in a game that India could have won.
It is a valid argument that much of the mess was due to injuries as Sourav Ganguly has argued. But currently, there seems no clear direction in terms of preparing for a post-Virat-Rohit era. No matter how much longer they stretch their great careers, the harsh truth is that they have more years behind them than they have ahead and it is just a matter of time now!
In such a scenario, managing schedules and rotation of players is crucial but a leadership hierarchy needs to be put in place. Possible choices are – KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja among the younger lot. However, if IPL experience is a yardstick to judge captaincy, then Pant and Jadeja don’t seem too suitable. The most viable options for the long term can be Rahul and Hardik for the red and white ball game respectively. In the short term, if Rohit Sharma is not available then Ravi Ashwin could be a possible replacement as he is a cerebral cricketer of great understanding. It was unfortunate that he was left out of the recent test where his bowling could well have made a vital difference for India on the final day.
While Rohit is back at the helm for the T20s and One Dayers against England, it is time to give more serious thought to leadership or else the Indian Team may suffer again in the future. Even Rahul Dravid’s tenure as Coach, which started on a promising note, has become trickier as a result of the musical chairs being played with the captaincy. Dravid has now had more captains as a coach of the national side than he had when he was a player!
It’s an old saying that “too many cooks spoil the broth” and for Team India too, several Captains could be possibly harming the team’s bonding. Moreover, it can create a leadership vacuum and generate confusion as well as several bruised egos. Already, as we know, Shreyas Iyer moved away from the Delhi team in IPL due to Pant being given the leadership. Surely, the Indian Team doesn’t need such problems erupting in its dressing room.