The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 season is all set to start from March 23 onwards and the excitement levels are growing with each passing day. Over the 11 seasons in the IPL, what we have noticed is that strong captaincy skills are essential to get a side past the line. Teams that have been consistent over the years, were privileged to get captains that stood out and led them from the front.
In the shortest format of cricket, things happen in a blink of an eye. That’s where a captain’s focus is so crucial. Often it’s the leader and his attributes that is usually the difference between the winning and losing teams. A captain brings so much into the game in T20Is. Be it the bowling changes, smart field placements and a strong playing XI, a captain has a versatile role on offer.
Over the years in this global T20 league, we have witnessed some fantastic skippers that went on to dominate the show. MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma have been the most successful ones with three titles a piece. Former Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir had his share of success. Knowledge, presence of mind and consistency are key factors that drive a leader. Also add the trust factor of his teammates.
In IPL 11 we witnessed some new skippers coming off the blocks. Overall it was a good learning phase for them. This season we can expect something bigger and better. As we head towards another new season of the IPL, we look at the captains and what would one expect under their leadership.
MS DHONI (Chennai Super Kings)
MS Dhoni’s Midas touch helped Chennai Super Kings to lift the IPL 2018 title. The most consistent skipper was back for CSK after the franchise was suspended for a two-year-period. Dhoni, who has led CSK to the play-offs in nine out of nine seasons, just flowed in with the job. He knows the franchise in-and-out and once again CSK go in as the pre-tournament favourites.
Dhoni made some masterstroke moves last season and that helped him get the maximum out from his side. The backing of Ambati Rayudu to open the innings was possibly the best move. Rayudu and veteran Shane Watson were the chief architects for CSK’s title win. One feels that MSD will keep things simple as usual.
A master strategist, Dhoni is a rare kind of a leader that knows exactly what’s happening on the field. He gets almost everything spot on and gets the players to give their maximum. With a settled team at his disposal, Dhoni has the credentials to get CSK flying. He gets a 9.5 rating for being comfortable with the art of winning.
Kane Williamson (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson came in to lead the Sunrisers Hyderabad after David Warner was banned for his involvement in the the ball-tampering scandal. Williamson was brilliant and his calm demeanour saw SRH reach the final of IPL 11.
Williamson took the burden in scoring runs for his side and he won the Orange Cap (735 runs). Williamson is set to lead the Orange Army this time as well, despite David Warner returning.
The 28-year-old’s calmness is a touch of gold. He doesn’t do anything fancy and relies on his instincts. Williamson has a strong squad and he is expected to handle his players as per the demands. What makes him a strong leader is his decision making. He thrives even in tense moments.
The aspect of his leadership is building the momentum with the bowlers. He is well informed and uses his bowlers wisely. He gets a rating of 9.
Dinesh Karthik (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Dinesh Karthik had was a surprise selection as a leader by KKR and the move turned out to be a defining one. Karthik surprised everyone with his attributes as a skipper and he brought a lot of freshness. It wasn’t easy to replace Gautam Gambhir, but the veteran handled the pressure well.
He got KKR to be consistent as they ended third in the season. What stood out in his favour was his fearless approach and he thrived with his decision-making.
Karthik backed the youngsters throughout the campaign and wasn’t afraid to field them consistently even after some defeats down the road.
With all the cricket Karthik has played for India since the IPL, expect him to be better prepared. In IPL 2019, we can expect KKR to be more expressive. Karthik’s trust in the youngsters will allow them to play a fearless brand of cricket. It isn’t all about winning a trophy, but building for the future. He gets a rating of 8.5.
Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians)
Rohit’s pedigree as a skipper has improved consistently. The senior cricketer has been one of the most successful captains in the IPL. Last season, MI went on to lose a few close matches and the overall composure was lacking. Rohit didn’t have a solid campaign with the bat as well.
In IPL 2019, MI will look to rally around him. One will hope that Rohit bats higher up the order given his T20I prowess. MI have a misbalanced squad in terms of overall depth and balance, therefore Rohit has work to do. He needs to decide on his best possible XI and get off to a strong start.
One can expect MI’s core to be the main threat this time like usual, but choosing from the vast pool of pacers and getting the shots right in batting will test Rohit. So his experience will be handy. He gets a rating of 7.
Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
In IPL 11, Virat Kohli couldn’t quite live up to expectations as the leader of RCB. His captaincy at times was questionable. The teams he fielded and the decision to stick to five bowlers saw RCB losing ground. Kohli ran out of options and that hurt the side.
RCB have bolstered the side well in IPL 2019. So expect them to put up a stronger performance. Kohli will have the resources to go all out and lead from the front. He amassed 530 runs last season and he will be the side’s go to batsman this time too.
One will want Kohli to rally the side and make them come out strong. RCB never found the balance in their squad and this time Kohli will look change the scenario. He gets a rating of 6.5.
Ajinkya Rahane (Rajasthan Royals)
This season will be massive for Rahane, who had a mixed campaign as captain last term. He will want to start afresh in IPL 2019 and show more maturity as a leader. Rahane cannot afford mistakes like he made last term. He struggled to get things right, especially with tactical decisions and team selections.
Personally, he had a dismal campaign with the bat and that saw RR struggle at times. Although Royals reached the play-offs, Rahane’s decision-making was the issue. His move to push Jos Buttler up the order midway through the season was the best aspect.
This time things will be challenging with Buttler and Ben Stokes not going to play the entire season for World Cup preparations. RR’s lack of depth means that Rahane will have a difficult road ahead. He needs to be among the runs and get off to a strong start. He gets a rating of 5.
Shreyas Iyer (Delhi Capitals)
Shreyas Iyer came in midway through the season to replace Gautam Gambhir as the new skipper for Delhi. His raw energy and growth was witnessed as the season progressed. Delhi Capitals struggled to deliver consistent performances but under the Indian cricketer, there were glimpses of brilliance.
Iyer will look to be responsible in a bigger manner this term. He will draw from his learnings as skipper from last year. Also the presence of senior cricketer Shikhar Dhawan will help him. Iyer has the team to go out all guns blazing and he needs to be calm under pressure situations. It’s still a learning curve for him.
If can get his team to perform, then expect DC to do well and provide some fight after a last place finish last term. It’s an interesting season ahead for the Mumbaikar. He gets a rating of 6.
R Ashwin (Kings XI Punjab)
R Ashwin was another new skipper on the block in IPL last season. He was handed captaincy, despite not having the desired experience of leading in the coveted T20 league.
Ashwin got off to a strong start as KXIP skipper and it all looked rosy for the side. But as the season progressed, the both Ash and his team ran out of ideas. His decision-making with the team selection and tinkering the batting positions didn’t serve KXIP well. Remember the side had gone for an overhaul.
KXIP ended on a dismal note and was forced to change their squad in a massive manner heading into IPL 2019. Now the question lies can Ash change the scenario and bring in the consistency? Can he propel another new team under him to gel well and get that balance? It’s a difficult ask. Ashwin gets a rating of 4.