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India’s Captaincy Musical Chairs: Time to have format-specific leaders?

In 2022, Team India have used as many as seven captains across the formats for various reasons. Is it time for BCCI to look into split captaincy option?

India Skipper Rohit Sharma during a training session on India tour of West Indies 2022 | Walking Wicket (Courtesy: ©Peter Della Penna)
Rohit Sharma during a training session on India tour of West Indies (Courtesy: ©Peter Della Penna)

In the recent few months, India have witnessed several captaincy changes. While Rohit Sharma is India’s permanent leader across all three formats, there have been multiple rotations in the captaincy department this year due to Covid-19, injuries and rest provided to the players.

From the beginning of the year, India have used as many as seven captains leading the team in all three formats.

A brief look at all captaincy changes

The year 2022 began for India with KL Rahul as captain in the first Test match of the year against South Africa, before Virat Kohli returned to lead the team in the next game after recovering from an injury. With Kohli resigning from all the formats as captain, Rohit Sharma took over India’s captaincy duties in all formats.

Rohit Sharma too then missed the One Day International (ODI) leg of the South Africa tour due to an injury and Rahul again led the team. It was followed with Rohit coming back to lead the side against West Indies and Sri Lanka at home.

After the conclusion of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022, Rohit was rested for the five-match T20I series against South Africa at home which saw young Rishabh Pant taking the leadership baton. India then headed to Ireland for a T20I series without a number of senior players for which recent IPL winning Gujarat Titans captain, Hardik Pandya led India.

Jasprit Bumrah became the sixth India captain, when in the absence of Rohit Sharma due to Covid, the premier fast bowler guided his side in the rescheduled fifth Test of Pataudi Trophy 2021 against England. With a hectic schedule awaiting the side, Shikhar Dhawan was slotted as the leader of India in the recently concluded ODI series against West Indies in the absence of Rohit Sharma.

Now KL Rahul, making an early return from injury, again will lead India against Zimbabwe in a three-match ODI series starting on August 18.

Hardik Pandya gets a pat from Rohit Sharma on his best bowling performance in T20I _ Walking Wicket (Courtesy: ©Getty Images)
Hardik Pandya captained India in T20I on Ireland tour (Courtesy: ©Getty Images)

“I think it’s fantastic” - Rohit on having multiple captains across formats

In a recent interview about multiple captaincy changes for India so far in 2022, skipper Rohit Sharma spoke about how it is vital to have leadership in the squad.

“I think it’s very important to have that leadership, but obviously, you know, we play the IPL and it’s a 10-team tournament,” Sharma declared that it was a positive sign that India have so many players who can be depended upon for captaincy. “So, there will be 10 captains who, at some stage, will be a part of India’s team as well.”

“You know, I think it’s fantastic because, honestly, my job is much less as these guys understand everything pretty well. So, it’s just about if someone’s having a thought, how am I going to back up that thought,” Rohit said on Star Sports show “Follow The Blues”. “For me, as captain, that’s my role and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

India head coach Rahul Dravid mocked the fact that he had to work with that many different captains since the time he took over the role after last year’s ICC World T20.

“It’s been good fun; it’s been challenging as well,” Dravid, who later on highlighted that it has helped different people to step into the leadership role, clarified. “We probably had about six captains in the last eight months to work with, that wasn’t the plan!”

“That’s just the nature of the game with the pandemic, and the number of matches that we are playing,” Rahul Dravid expressed. “Managing the squad, the workload, and the changes in captaincy as well.”

Aaron Finch struck at 125.07 in T20Is in 2021 vis-à-vis Career SR of 145.29; Shall Aaron Finch be dropped from Captaincy _ Walking Wicket (©ICC/GettyImages)
Finch captains Australia in shorter format and Pat Cummins in Tests (©ICC/GettyImages)

From Australia to England - Split captaincy is the new theme

Undoubtedly, for one particular captain to lead the side across three formats in the current age is not sustainable, especially with the rise in the amount of cricket players play these days. And world cricket has accepted this fact without any question. A look at all the captains of different sides will clear the picture.

For Australia, Aaron Finch is captain in the limited overs format while Pat Cummins leads them in Test cricket. For South Africa, they have Temba Bavuma or Keshav Maharaj for T20Is or ODIs, whereas Dean Elgar is the skipper in the red ball format. England too have separated the captaincy role; Jos Buttler leads England in the white ball games whereas Ben Stokes is in charge of the Test side.

For New Zealand, even though Kane Williamson is assigned to lead the side in all three formats but due to his injury issues, more often than not, Tim Southee or Tom Latham become the skipper for the Blackcaps. West Indies too have gone on the same route; Nicholas Pooran is in charge for the white ball games, while Kraigg Brathwaite is the leader in the red ball format.

However, Pakistan have the same captain - Babar Azam - across all three formats but with age, he too is expected to delegate leadership duties in specific formats to others. All these decisions have been made to keep the players fresh for the mega events.

India vs SA, 5th T20I, 2022_ Rain spoils decider in Bengaluru; series drawn at 2-2 _ Walking Wicket (Images ©BCCI)
India drew 5 match T20I series under Rishabh Pant against SA (Images ©BCCI)

Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant have performed well in captaincy

When regular captain Rohit Sharma was given a break at the end of IPL 2022, Rishabh Pant was offered the captaincy hat for a five-match T20I series against South Africa.

The beginning of Pant’s international captaincy career wasn’t the best one given the Proteas bagged the first two T20Is easily, before India made a comeback in the next two T20Is to draw the series as the last game was washed out due to rain.

When the 15th season of IPL kicked off, the major question was around the leadership of Hardik Pandya, who was going to lead a new franchise, Gujarat Titans. Pandya throughout the whole season was splendid with his job to lead Gujarat to their maiden IPL trophy. Some of his decisions in pressure situations during the tournament were really praiseworthy. In 16 IPL games in 2022, Hardik Pandya came first as a leader in 75 per cent of the games.

Pandya was then backed by India’s selectors to lead the national team in Ireland in a two-match T20I series in the absence of seniors who were preparing for the Edgbaston Test in England. Pandya led India to whitewash Ireland comfortably by a 2-0 margin.

“Why not?” Pandya expressed when he was asked about captaincy during the post-match presentation of the fifth T20I against West Indies in Lauderhill, where he led India in the absence of Rohit Sharma. “If given a chance, I’ll be more than happy to do it.”

Eng vs Ind, 5th Test, Day 2, Top Performances_ Jasprit Bumrah takes 35 off Stuart Broad's over in Tests, highest ever in an over in Tests _ Walking Wicket (©Getty Images )
Jasprit Bumrah captained India in 5th Test against England (Source: ©Getty Images )

With time, India need to look at the option of multiple captains

India need to have a look at producing multiple captains across different formats in the game. With the growing number of games and the high amount of games India have begun to play of late, the smart act will be splitting the leadership burden to keep the players fresh.

Also, there will be times, as Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah have said, when an Indian team will play an ODI or T20I series in Sri Lanka or Zimbabwe while the Test side will prepare for the longest format in England.

The IPL has manufactured so many options in the captaincy department and the board should look to use the ones who have the potential to do the job with ease. With so many events awaiting in the near future, not only it keeps the seniors fresh but it will allow the youngsters to catch some valuable lessons from their senior players.

Rather than only experimenting with them in different series, India should look to cement the place with one captain which will help Rohit Sharma to focus on his game and the other formats that he is captaining.

India will play a three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe beginning on August 18 at the Harare Sports Club in Harare.


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