As England lifted up its maiden World Cup after a nail-biting final at Lords, the cricketing spectacle finally came to an end. With the teams travelling back to their respective home countries, assessment and analysis of their performances has already begun. Indian cricket team, who were dubbed by veterans as favorites to lift the World Cup, despite topping the table in league stage met a disheartening roadblock against New Zealand in the semi finals.
While the team steered through the tournament heavily dependent on the top order and the bowling attack, the deficiencies in the middle order were clearly evident and the management clearly fell short of streamlining that critical issue which ultimately cost India in the knockout match. Despite several players performing at their optimum levels, cohesive team performance was also missing. Poor selection, streamlining the middle order and improper execution at critical number 4 position have been the major points of discussions.
While many observers have pointed out this issue throughout the team’s performance in pressure situations over the past few seasons, little or no improvement has been seen in this regard. And now furthering the reservations of many, several media reports have surfaced which point towards an internal rift between the team captain Virat Kohli and opener Rohit Sharma. BCCI taking note of the rift has been assessing the situation and pondering over the idea of split captaincy.
Speaking to IANS, a board functionary said, “This would be the right time for Rohit to take over the mantle of the captaincy in the 50-over format. There has been immense support to the present captain and the management and it is time to plan ahead for the next World Cup and for that the existing ideas and plans need a fresh look. We all know some areas need a relook. Rohit would be the right man for the job.”
Over the history of Indian cricket, team captains have played a much bigger role digressing from the conventional definition of a team captain. From the times of Kapil Dev who lifted India’s first World cup in 1983 to current generation captain Virat Kohli, Indian cricket team has undergone a seismic shift both in terms of team performance and more importantly in prevailing team culture.
Kapil Dev who solidified his position after India’s first world cup victory in 1983 Prudential Cup, had to face the music after India lost in the semifinals of the following 1987 Reliance world cup against England and was removed from the captaincy. The 1983 World Cup victory was an important point in the Indian cricket history and brought about a cricketing revolution it the country, however for Kapil Dev who went on to play in the team till as late as 1994 never led the team again.
What followed was a turbulent period for Indian cricket team with small captaincy stints by from Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri and K Srikanth, finally, under the leadership of Mohammad Azharuddin, who led India in three consecutive world cups in 1992, 1996 & 1999, the team culture stabilized. However, despite improved performance on papers, the team culture was marred with rampant factionalism and a number of controversies. Ultimately his declining form and emergence of Sachin Tendulkar took away the captaincy from him in 1999. Despite making comeback in 1997 his carrier took a nosedive a few years later when after allegations of match-fixing he was banned for life by the BCCI in 2000.
After a relatively short span under the leadership of Sachin Tendulkar the reins of the team were forwarded to Sourav Ganguly, who following the miraculous 2001 Kolkata test victory solidified his position and along with then team coach former New Zealand skipper John Wright, went on to free the team of the rampant factionalism and incoherencies of the 90s ultimately laying a strong foundation for the team for decades to come. Several star players like Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Virendra Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and others found perfect conditions under Sourav Ganguly to transform their games to the standards prevailing in International cricket. As his form abandoned him in 2005, Sourav Ganguly was not only stripped of the captaincy but was also dropped from the team. His duel with coach Greg Chapel is also another story of his controversial yet successful career. Despite making a successful come back in 2006, Dada went on to play till 2008 but was never made the captain of the team again which he once fostered.
After Sourav Ganguly, the leadership of Indian cricket traded hand amongst Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and Anil Kumble before being handed over to arguably the most successful captain in Indian history Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Under MS, India went on to win all the major ICC tournaments be it T20 World Cup, 50 Over World Cup or the ICC Champions Trophy. MS Dhoni also established India’s supremacy in Test cricket with India dominating the test rankings for years under his leadership.
Under MS Dhoni, the Indian team saw tremendous improvement in all departments of batting, bowling and most importantly fielding and in a way, Dhoni built on the foundation laid by Sourav Ganguly and gave the team its final touches ultimately transforming the team from a world-class squad to a world champion team. Again giving the example of his tremendous knowledge of team dynamics and patience, Dhoni ultimately passed on the torch to the young and aggressive Virat Kohli who was at that time going through his ‘purple’ phase in cricket.
With senior players like Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan towards the end of their cricketing career, Virat Kohli with his is terrific batting performance emerged as the most viable option despite calls of concerns over his temperament in matches. Inheriting a world champion team, Kohli took the team ahead which maintained its consistent performance in ODI’s, however, a considerable decline in the performance of the team in T20 and test cricket was evident. Now after the disheartening defeat in the World Cup, the deliberations over leadership of Virat Kohli are ripe. Team selection has been a major part of these discussions, while Kohli had given preferences to players like Yuzvendra Chahal, his fellow teammate from Royal Challengers, K L Rahul and Mayank Agarwal while consistent performers like Ambati Rayadu were kept on the back seat. While the list of Indian cricket captains features some bowlers however in a bird’s eye view the bias for batsman taking the lead are clear and evident. And in some cases, it seems that just the individual player performance was used as a benchmark to give the reins of the team without taking other critical factors into consideration moreover dearth of other eligible players at that time may have also played a role.
Virat Kohli’s relation with the team administration has also raised several eyebrows, while the previous coach Anil Kumble was forced to step down owing to his rift with Kohli in 2017, the current head coach Ravi Shastri has been dubbed by many as just a ‘yes man’ to the Indian Captain. And now these reports of rift with Rohit Sharma are surely not playing in Kohli’s favor. Rohit, with his spectacular record in T20 captaincy with the IPL franchise Mumbai Indians, beats Virat Kohli’s record with Royal Challengers Bangalore hands down. Rohit had also displayed optimum captaincy skills in limited opportunities he got with the team. Rohit boasts a win percentage of 80% (12 wins, 3 loses) compared to just 57.14% (12 Win ,9 loses, 1 NR) in T20’s while in ODI Rohit Sharma match count as captain is low however the winning percentage is 80% as compared to 74.26 percent for Virat Kohli.
The idea of split captaincy might play in favor of both the team and individual performances of players. While in the white-ball formats, if Rohit takes the lead Kohli can guide the team in the red-ball format keeping up the consistent performance that he has been delivering over his career. India in the past has also seen some successful split captaincies in the recent time with Anil Kumble leading in Tests and MS Dhoni leading in the shorter formats and then Virat Kohli leading in Test cricket while Dhoni was still the captain in white-ball formats.
However it remains to be seen if the board takes a proactive decision on this critical issue as rift in team are surely not a good sign for the team performances in times to come nonetheless indications by the board are in line with split captaincy as the functionary has also stated “You are aware that Vinod Rai (CoA chief) has already mentioned that a review meeting will take place. This will have to be ascertained when the review takes place and it is important to get to the bottom of these rumors.”