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Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma: A no-brainer when it comes to ODI captaincy?

Last updated on 08 Dec 2021 | 11:08 AM
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Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma: A no-brainer when it comes to ODI captaincy?

The selectors are expected to take a call ahead of India's tour of South Africa

While Rohit Sharma has taken over the reins as India's T20 International (T20I) captain after Virat Kohli's resignation post the T20 World Cup, there have been murmurs of him taking over as the One-Day International (ODI) captain as well.

Rohit is considered to be one of the finest leaders, having taken his Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Mumbai Indians (MI) to five titles. He has also successfully led India in the Asia Cup and also delivered numerous times as a leader, which includes a triumph in the Nidahas Trophy tri-series featuring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2018.

With reports surfacing that Rahul Dravid is keen on having one white-ball captain, it could be the end of the road as limited-overs skipper for Kohli. Whatever the selectors decide, it will be done with an eye on the 2023 World Cup, which will be played in India.

Since taking over as captain, Kohli has had plenty of chances to bring an ICC trophy home. In 2017, India lost to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, they crashed out in the semi-final in the 2019 World Cup and more recently, India failed to make it to the semis in the T20 World Cup. One surely cannot say that Kohli has not been given the time or the resources to have come out of each tournament empty-handed.However, giving Kohli the rope till the end of the mega event could also diminish the chances of Rohit taking over on a full-time basis. Rohit will be over 36 by the time the World Cup ends and it certainly does not seem feasible in the long run to appoint him skipper then.

While Rohit has less than a year to identify and groom a squad for the next T20 World Cup, he could potentially have over two years to build a team for the 50-over World Cup on home soil. MS Dhoni used the CB series in Australia in 2008 to ring in the changes keeping an eye on the 2011 World Cup and that worked wonders. The tour of South Africa could be that for Rohit, if given a chance.

There’s very little doubt that Kohli has been a successful captain. He has won 65 of the 95 matches he has led. To put things into perspective, among captains who have led in ODIs in at least 50 matches, only Clive Lloyd (77.71), Ricky Ponting (76.14) and Hansie Cronje (73.70) have a better win percentage than Kohli (70.43).

Producing results has never been an issue for Kohli, but producing them at crucial tournaments, however, has been one – be it with the Indian team or as captain of RCB in the IPL.  That is where Rohit could come in with his vast experience of taking his team home in crunch situations. 

Pravin Amre, who has known Rohit since his Under-16 days, says, “Rohit has got the experience of leading Mumbai Indians to five IPL titles. Credit to him for the quality of leadership, taking the right decisions at the right time, backing players, more importantly backing youngsters, reading the game, and being one step ahead as captain.”

Young players like Rahul Chahar have been given the freedom to set and bowl to their fields in the initial matches, giving the likes of Ishan Kishan the freedom to go all guns blazing and still continuing to back him regardless of his scores has not just done wonders for MI, but they’ve also progressed to the India side, where they continue to flourish.

Rohit also does not believe in changing the team that often. Former teammate Abhishek Nayar reckons Rohit is someone who believes in the process and does is not someone who keeps changing the composition of the team on a regular basis. 

Kohli, on the other hand, has been guilty of not going in with the same XI for back-to-back games on a consistent basis.

“One thing you will see with Rohit is the fact that he is someone who always believed in consistent teams, consistent plans and consistent processes. That is something he has always done for Mumbai Indians over the years, and am sure he will try and replicate that for India as well,” Nayar opines.

It’s no secret that one of the main reasons for MI’s success over the years has been the fact that the core of the team has not changed. The likes of Kieron Pollard, Pandya brothers, Jasprit Bumrah and others have been around for quite some time. Backing them in their early years has done wonders not just for the franchise but at the international arena as well. 

It is however difficult for other teams like say Punjab Kings, who do not just have a steady team, but also fiddle around often with their coaching staff and captain.

Will Kohli benefit from giving up ODI captaincy too? He is already India’s most successful Test captain and that is a position he will hold on to for a few more years. As someone who has the appetite to score daddy hundreds, he has not hit one since 2019. 

In the same period, Rohit has taken his game to another level, not just in white-ball cricket, but also in Tests. He has played 10 innings fewer than Kohli and has slammed more runs than him. He has also scored four tons and 13 fifties in this period, while Kohli has not gone past 94 across formats even once. 

Relieving Kohli of captaincy in white-ball cricket altogether could see him return to scoring big, which the world has been denied over the last couple of years.

While Kohli has achieved quite a lot as captain of India, it would be naïve not to give Rohit a chance to lead the side. It would be a step in the right direction given that Rohit is the rightful successor to Kohli having groomed him for years. He has won laurels for the side in his limited chances of leading India and is the most successful IPL captain by a long distance. 

For all you know, Kohli might be keeping the seat warm for a very short period, paving way for a new era in Indian cricket.

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