Rohit Sharma must have felt very lonely as he walked up the long staircase of the Motera Stadium while shaking hands with whoever came in his way on the catastrophic Sunday night. A World Cup final defeat like this might have felt like a stab in the chest. He needed to quickly leave that arena. While it may appear that the world has collapsed around Rohit Sharma, now is the time more than ever that the Indian cricket team needs him at the helm for at least two more years in longer formats.
When Rahul Dravid’s captaincy stint ended in 2007, Dhoni was a ready replacement in the team and when Dhoni departed, there was already a succession plan in form of Virat Kohli. And Rohit was ready to take the mantle from Kohli.
But in a team where the youngsters are years away from taking the leadership role, the selectors will have no choice but to continue with Rohit.
Listening to coach Rahul Dravid, you get an idea how invested he was in his team and perhaps the reason, every ounce of emotion seemed to have been sucked out of his system after Sunday’s debacle.
“He’s been an exceptional leader. Rohit’s really led this team fantastically. He’s given so much of his time and energy in the dressing room to the boys. He’s always been available for any of our conversations, any of our meetings,” Dravid said after the match.
‘Captain Sharma’ spoilt us in the last six weeks with his daredevil batting at top, the way he used his bowlers and for bringing a dash of humour every now and then during a tense campaign. And just like his effortless pull-shots, Rohit never had to try being funny. He has that streak in him.
And when you see him broken, somewhere a part of you also break.
“He’s given a lot of his personal time, energy into this campaign. And he wanted to lead by example. Right through the tournament, he was quite superb in doing that. I just can’t speak more highly of him as a person and as a leader,” Dravid added.
Rohit is 36 plus and in 2027, he will be 40 when South Africa host the next World Cup. Perhaps the chance of winning a 50-over World Cup, which his opposite Pat Cumins termed as the pinnacle of sport has passed by him.
But instead of finding a quick replacement of him, the Indian cricket authorities should have Rohit leading the bunch for the next two years which would be very important for Indian cricket before it once again starts hitting another transition button.
Obviously, at his age, Rohit will have to pick and choose the bilateral ODI series, especially the white-ball ones that he wants to play.
In Test cricket, he has been India’s best batter across all conditions in the post COVID-19 phase and the team needs him more than ever.
The new World Test Championship (WTC) cycle has just started and it would end in 2025 along with ICC Champions Trophy.
Indian cricket actually needs Rohit Sharma as its leader and mentor till that time and this has to be non-negotiable.
The reason being India does not have any readymade captain for ODIs and Test matches.
For T20 Internationals, they have earmarked Hardik Pandya but for ODIs, one needs a different mindset and even though Hardik was designated deputy during the World Cup, his fitness and workload would always be an issue. There are two more choices though – KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah, who did lead India in a one-off Test series and a mini T20 series in Ireland.
But both Rahul and Bumrah haven’t exactly looked like mature captains.
Rahul has been an IPL captain for long, leading Kings XI Pujab and Lucknow Super Ginats but is yet to win a title.
He also led India on the 2021-22 tour of South Africa but lost one Test and all three ODIs.
And herein lies the problem. ‘Captain Sharma’ has imbibed a different playing philosophy in this team and for that to continue, he needs to be in best frame of mind and lead the team in at least two formats.
The BCCI and national selection committee needs to give him time to groom his heir to the hot seat.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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