Real Litmus Test Awaits All-format Captain Rohit Sharma as India Continue to Seek Right Template For T20Is

Rohit Sharma is now the new all-format captain of India. Unapologetically, India’s chief selector Chetan Sharma declared that ‘Rohit is the No. 1 cricketer of our country’ and that can be formally seen as Virat Kohli era is now over.

However, it may sound unbelievable but Rohit has apparently ‘reluctantly’ agreed to take the Test captaincy responsibilities. It is the similar kind of ‘reluctance’ which head coach Rahul Dravid had exhibited when he was eventually persuaded by BCCI president and his former captain Sourav Ganguly.

Also Read: Kohli’s ‘Logical Successor’ – Rohit Ready To Take Team India to a New Era

Interesting times indeed in Indian cricket when two of the most high-profile jobs of country have apparently no deserving takers!

KL Rahul of course is going to be the front-runner to lead the team in red-ball format in the second half of the year, but if Rishabh Pant too has another outstanding IPL as batter-captain then who knows that he too may be the dark horse since he too was the vice-captain against West Indies in the white ball series. However, for the time being the selectors seem to keep their option open and wide and the elevation of Jasprit Bumrah as vice-captain for both the T20 series and Test series against Sri Lanka can be seen in that direction.

And yet, India’s immediate concern is not Test cricket, but T20 format. Even if Rohit and his team has done well to defeat the West Indies comprehensively in both the ODI and as well the T20 series, some of the questions remained unanswered. India’s top order is still dependent on Rohit, Kohli and both have similar style (anchor) of play in the shortest format of the game. In the 50 overs game, there is still enough time to make up for the relatively slow start but in the T20 format, this has been India’s problem for more than a decade.

Of course, this is a typical ‘who will bell the cat’ kind of dilemma for the selectors and the board as Rohit is undroppable because of his formidable record as batter and now he is the captain, Kohli’s numbers are not bad either. And yet, it is in common knowledge that India desperately needs not one but a couple of swashbucklers in the first six overs.

Kohli’s fifty in the second match of the ongoing home series against West Indies provided the platform for the likes of Pant and Venkatesh Iyer to play with the much-needed freedom but if the tourists would have pulled the win (they did come agonisingly close), the former India captain’s strike-rate would have been talk of the social media.

Also Read: BCCI Looks Forward to Groom ‘Future Captains’ Under Rohit

With Ishan Kishan not delivering (2, 35, 28, 29, 4 in his last five international innings) at the top order, it is not surprising to see the comeback of Sanju Samson as back-up wicketkeeper-batter. Keeping Australian pitches (extra bounce) in mind, this could be the last opportunity for the Kerala player to make his mark in the shortest format of the game.

A large squad of 18 players means that Chetan and colleagues’ job is relatively easier as the team management has got enough resources to try as many faces in the coming few matches keeping in the mind what they may need in Australia for the World Cup. The young leggie Ravi Bishnoi has got a great start in his international career but it has been reassuring to see that the experienced Kuldeep Chahal is back in his elements. If Kuldeep too can rediscover his old magic, Rohit will have some fine options in wrist spin department which can be a big advantage on the big and bouncy Australian grounds.

Ruturaj Gaikwad and Avesh Khan are unlikely to make the final cut for the T20 World Cup but if they get some matches in the shortest format under Rohit’s captaincy, it may benefit Indian cricket. Both the youngsters have performed admirably in the last IPL and another great season this year may enhance their chances for the national team. If they manage to impress in the limited opportunities against Sri Lankan team, Team India can always fall back on them in case of some last-minute injury to any key/regular members of the side.

Rohit is yet to lose a match or series ever since he has been appointed the captain and it is very unlikely that a Sri Lankan team (which was thrashed in Australia) can stop the winning juggernaut in India. However, that is not a tough challenge for Rohit and his mates. The real journey for captain Rohit is going to begin from the month of July (tour of England) and the litmus test being held in Australia in October-November. Until then, it is a merely a honeymoon period for the leader or ‘the No. 1 cricketer of our country’ as Chetan says.

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