Should Rohit take over the captaincy of the T20I from Kohli?
Rohit Sharma is the most successful IPL captain in history, with five trophies to his name. Anyone who follows his captaincy closely – outsiders like me and players who play with him – assures him that he is tactically astute and that few read the game better than him. He stays calm under pressure, leads his troops with a sense of control, and makes the most radical changes to the flow of the game without appearing radical at all.
The captaincy consists of two equally important parts: one, the ability to read the game so that you are at least a couple of overs ahead (in cue ball cricket), and two, recognize your instincts and stick with them when ‘ You are convinced. A good captain has no ego and is happy to have his leadership group on board for much of the decision-making, but has the confidence to override them if he thinks otherwise.
Sharma ticks all the boxes, and while the success of the Mumbai Indians largely depends on their auction and talent search strategy, it’s also about their leadership both on and off the field.
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If he is such a successful IPL captain, wouldn’t it be natural to make him the captain of the Indian T20I team as well? If the players are chosen for India in the shortest format based on their performances in the IPL, why should it be different for the captain?
It’s just not the same, ever. And to be fair, it shouldn’t be either, unless there’s a captain failing with his playing skills in the format while leading the Indian T20I team.
After the fifth Mumbai IPL title, there was a clamor among some former cricketers to replace Virat Kohli with Sharma as captain in the shorter format. Their argument is that Kohli’s record as captain at the helm of the Royal Challengers Bangalore is quite poor and that should be enough to make the switch for India as well.
Sharma has won five titles and has won 60% of all his matches as captain of the Mumbai Indians. On the other hand, Kohli’s team never won the IPL; and RCB have won nearly 47 of their matches under his captaincy. The argument against Kohli is that since Sharma not only wins more matches but also knows how to win knockout matches, he should lead India to the next T20 World Cup.
Let’s take a closer look at Kohli’s return as captain and then the merits of possibly making a change.
Kohli as India’s captain in ODIs has won 72% of his games; in T20Is this figure is around 65%. If we were to reduce it even further in the shorter format, his winning percentage increases to 75% since the beginning of 2019 – 12 wins in 16 games.
To put things a bit more in perspective, MS Dhoni is arguably India’s most successful limited overs captain, with a T20 World Cup, 50+ World Cup and a Champions Trophy title to his name. , the only captain in the world who has all Three. Dhoni’s winning percentage in T20I and ODI is approximately 60%. When you set Kohli’s returns as captain of India alongside Dhoni’s performance, you can’t possibly put holes in him.
“Would you leave proven international players like Jasprit Bumrah or KL Rahul from the Indian T20I team if they had a poor IPL? The answer is an overwhelming no.”
While some argue that bilateral cricket doesn’t matter, others say Kohli’s numbers are as good as they are just because India is such a strong team that the captaincy doesn’t have much of an impact on their winning percentage. To answer these two reservations: since Kohli has not led an ICC event in T20I, we should look at his records only in bilateral series. And beating New Zealand and England in their backyards should count for something. In addition, the two ICC events in which he has led India have reached the final once and the semi-final the other time. Those are not bad results by any stretch of the imagination. As for the second point, if Kohli is a good captain with a good team under him when he leads India, perhaps it is the RCB team that needs to change and not the captain.
Of course, winning the trophy is the only thing that matters for a team of the caliber of India, but let’s remember that this is not easy even for the best captains. While Dhoni won the inaugural Word T20, he led many more World Cups in the format, but was unable to win the trophy again. Is that a slight to your captaincy skills? Not at all, because that’s how it is at the highest level.
Coming back to the argument that Kohli has a good team when he leads India, it is understandable if part of the blame for RCB’s poor results goes to him, but what does that have to do with his performance as captain of India? Given his 47 win percentage, RCB may not want to continue with him as captain, but maybe they will keep him captain anyway.
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It’s important for us to understand that we are not stakeholders in franchise teams, who will always run the way their bosses want them to. They have every right to take the direction that suits their cause and they are not obliged to share the reasons for their decisions with the general public. If you don’t like their ideas, stop following them. However, the Indian team is different. We are stakeholders when we follow India.
We sports fans and former cricketers and experts must learn to separate the two: international and franchise cricket. Indian players must be judged on their performances, whether they are captaincies or not, for India only. For example, would you remove proven international artists like Jasprit Bumrah or KL Rahul from the Indian T20I team if they had a poor IPL? The answer is an overwhelming no, because they have been outstanding for India in the T20I format, and that will replace all the cricket franchises.
Given that the role of captain went to Kohli when Dhoni moved, it is only fair that he have a career as long as his performances as captain of India merit; your lack of success in the IPL should not hamper your chances of leading your first ICC T20I event. The fact that when Kohli replaced Dhoni there was no fuss over the appointment tells him that Sharma was not really in the running for the position at the time.
If Kohli wins the next World T20 and more ICC trophies, Sharma may never get a shot at the captaincy at the highest level. While that will be unfortunate, it will be a case where you were born at the wrong time. Amol Muzumdar scored tons of runs, and Rajinder Goel and Padmakar Shivalkar took truckloads of terrain, but all three never got a chance to play for India, unfortunately. And that was because India was blessed with Fab Four hitters in Muzumdar’s time and Bishan Singh Bedi and other good spinners in Goel and Shivalkar’s time.
As much as it’s about being fair to Kohli (who has won 12 of his last 16 T20Is in charge), it’s also about being fair to Sharma. If and when the selectors decide to turn to him to lead India in T20I, they must give him enough time to build the team he wants to build. Rome was not built in a day, and neither were the Mumbai Indians, and the same will be true for Sharma’s team in India.