Just like that, on a chilly Indian winter evening, Rohit Sharma emerges as the Indian captain of the ODI setup. No massive announcement, even some of the journalists who had received the official advisory had spotted it a little late, as the news was at the foot of an email announcing the Test squad.
After letting Virat Kohli announce his departure as T20I captain, perhaps it would’ve made more sense on a PR front to make this announcement in a similar way, for the sake of a seamless transition. But if multiple reports from credible journalists are to be believed, he was asked to quit the ODI captaincy well before but had declined to do so.
Eventually, BCCI did the job for him. With a one-liner at the bottom of the email, and a complementary social media post that appeared quite a while after the media advisory was out – the Indian captain with a win percentage in excess of 70%, was shown the exit door without much ado. This reeks of sacking more than stepping down.
Add to it, the Indian Test captain, who is usually pretty vocal about such decisions, is yet to break his silence. Having spoken about his desire to lead the country in the 2023 ICC Men’s World Cup, which will be hosted in India, this decision has caught a lot of people by surprise, even if some people saw it coming. Clearly, there is some discrepancy between the decision taken and Kohli’s opinion on it, and only time will reveal further truths relating to this fiasco.
But it is worth noting that Virat Kohli as an ODI captain had done a terrific job, registering series wins in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, West Indies, and Sri Lanka. He also led the side to the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2017, and a semi-final finish in the 2019 World Cup. Only one skipper in Indian history tops this array of results, and it is MS Dhoni.
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India’s recent turmoil in major tournaments has managed to reflect poorly on their bilateral achievements, but it is was under Kohli’s leadership that India won their first-ever bilateral series (all formats) in South Africa. In that unforgettable outing back in 2017/18, he starred with a staggering 558-run output at an average of 186 and strike rate just shy of 100.
This also increases speculations on Virat Kohli’s future as an international cricketer. A lot of fans on Twitter, including a lot of journalists, are speculating that this could be the first page of his final chapter as an international cricketer, and maybe after the 2023 World Cup, he may call time on his spectacular career.
With Rohit Sharma at the helm, the level of expectation escalates a little further and as unceremoniously as this transition happened, there is one thing that can saturate the iffiness around the team, and that is a major trophy.
What does Rohit Sharma bring to the table?
Rohit Gurunath Sharma first emerged on the scene when Virat Kohli was still an unknown name. He made a couple of stellar contributions to help India win the inaugural T20 World Cup, and despite facing the toughest of hardships for over half a decade, he found a new self when he got promoted as an opener.
He has been a work of art, without a doubt, but also a work that was in progress for a long period of time. MS Dhoni and former head coach Duncan Fletcher had invested a lot of time in him, so did Ravi Shastri as team director, as they saw a mercurial end product.
The Rohit Sharma prophecy was inked over 14 years ago, the chances of it turning true were far and few during his early days as an opener, but he kept believing in himself, worked his way up, and in the fag end of his career, he has been bestowed an opportunity of a lifetime, to captain the Indian side with two major tournaments a gasp away.
The 34-year-old holds 5 IPL trophies to go with a Champions League win since taking over as club captain in 2013. He has developed immensely as a tactician in the Indian Premier League, a stage where he has excelled more than any other skipper.
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Out of the five IPL titles won, not to forget, two of those came courtesy of a one-run win, where the captain palpably excelled with his field changes and strategies. From deceiving Shardul Thakur with an intelligent fieldset and a fantastic slower delivery in 2019, and holding an impeccable record of never losing a final as captain, Rohit Sharma has walked many miles to be in this position.
Right now, he has the poise, the experience, the skillset, and the right temperament needed to take over. Jitters won’t ever be a cause of concern, and it would come as a massive surprise if any of his teammates would be unhappy with this move considering how much he is revered in the dressing room.
He has, time and again, showed that extra bit of perkiness and intelligence required in a captain to win crunch moments, and with a visit to Australia next year for the T20 World Cup, and a World Cup on home turf soon after, there hasn’t been a more important phase in his career. But there are more reasons to be optimistic than to think otherwise.