In the last 13 years of Indian cricket, three players have changed the fortunes of the national side in a big way.
MS Dhoni helped India overcome the darkness and uncertainty in 2007 to become the first captain to win all three ICC trophies. During his time, India became a superpower in the cricketing world. The legacy was carried forward by Virat Kohli.
With his supreme batting and naturally aggressive leadership abilities, Kohli has ensured India are dominant in overseas conditions as well. Although ICC title wins continue to elude Kohli’s side, his success in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (barring Tests) and England (barring Tests and ODIs), in addition to his great record at home makes him as great as Dhoni.
However, there is a third person who has revolutionized the way India play.
He is also a leader. He has achieved great success as well. His exploits opening the batting in limited-overs cricket has seen India dominate opponents at will in the last seven years. Rohit Sharma, once considered a ‘talent’, is now a bonafide great of Indian cricket.
Is Rohit better than Kohli in captaincy?
Recently, in an episode of the Super Over Podcast, Suresh Raina, who played a pivotal role in the Indian team during both Dhoni and Kohli’s captaincy, said Rohit is the next Dhoni in the making.
“I have seen him, he is calm, he likes to listen. He likes to give confidence to the players and likes to lead from the front. When a captain leads from the front and, at the same time, he gives respect to the dressing-room atmosphere, you know you have it all. He thinks everyone is a captain.
“I have played under him when we won the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. I have seen how he gives confidence to young players like Shardul, Washington Sundar and Chahal.”Suresh Raina
Let us look at Rohit and Kohli as captain. In the international arena, Rohit has captained the Indian side only when Kohli has opted to take rest. The stop-gap arrangement might not give a complete picture on Rohit as a captain. Yet, he has accumulated impressive numbers.
In 10 ODIs, Rohit Sharma has won eight and lost two while Virat Kohli has captained in 89 games and won 62 with a success rate of 71. That number is the fourth-highest for any captain who has led his side in more than 50 games, behind Ricky Ponting, Hansie Cronje and Clive Lloyd.
However, Rohit has led India to some memorable multi-tournament wins, including Asia Cup and Nidahas Trophy. In T20Is, his only loss was in the series against New Zealand.
Difference in captaincy styles
Perhaps the major difference is the style of captaincy. When Kohli took over as the captain of the Indian team, he and coach Ravi Shastri adopted a horses-for-courses approach. He did not play the same XI in close to 37 Tests while in the ODI team, there was continuous chopping and changing.
The benefit was that all players were getting a chance. The cons was that many players were unsure of their position and they suffered a dip in confidence. When crucial ICC tournaments came, this horses-for-courses approach bit India and some players hard, as was the case of KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar.
In Rohit’s case, he played with almost the same side in the Asia Cup and the Nidahas Trophy. He gave the players a sense of security. He listened to the concerns of players over the rotational policy. He gave them a decent run and the success was evident.
IPL captaincy not the yardstick
People are perhaps harsh to judge Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma over their captaincy in the IPL. Rohit has won four titles for Mumbai Indians while Kohli has not had any success with Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Of course, the team structure plays a big part. Mumbai Indians have their bases covered with both bat and ball while Royal Challengers Bangalore are always falling short on either the batting or the bowling.
The IPL is not the yardstick to match international captaincy. However, it would be worth having Rohit a long run as captain in limited-overs cricket. Kohli, on the other hand, can be the Test captain and take India to glory in the World Test Championships. Both Rohit and Kohli are great. But, Dhoni is in a different league altogether.