Captaincy musical chairs breed confusion
Rahul Dravid has dealt with more captains during his nearly eight-month tenure as Team India head coach than during his playing days.
The former India captain has already worked with Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant and Jasprit Bumrah this year. Shikhar Dhawan will be the latest addition to the list when the team tours the West Indies for the three-match ODI series later this month. Dhawan though accompanied Dravid as captain to Sri Lanka last year when the specialists were busy with the Test series in England.
In between, Dravid didn’t have to manage the side under Hardik Pandya in Ireland with National Cricket Academy chief VVS Laxman filling in an interim role.
There’s already talk that the India captaincy is being handed over like musical chairs to the cricketers in spite of having Rohit as the regular all-format leader. Since taking charge of the limited overs team after the T20 World Cup last year, Rohit has missed the ODI series in South Africa, the T20I series against South Africa at home besides the rescheduled Edgbaston Test.
Rahul’s absence because of injury after the IPL has also made it trickier with the BCCI being forced to allow stand-in captains to take charge.
What did come as a surprise was the national selectors’ decision to hand over Dhawan another captaincy stint, this time in the Caribbean. With Rohit, Kohli, Pandya, Bumrah, Pant and Mohammed Shami rested for the series and Rahul recuperating from a sports hernia surgery, there was no option but to fall back on Dhawan. The opener has been a regular with the ODI side in the last two series — in South Africa and the home series versus West Indies.
The choice was between Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja but the selectors decided to go with the former because of his experience. Moreover Jadeja’s captaincy had faced criticism from various quarters during the IPL, forcing the Chennai Super Kings to reinstate Mahendra Singh Dhoni midway into the tournament.
The only option left with the selectors was to continue with Pandya, who was elevated to the role since the regulars were busy in England, for the ODIs too. But none was willing to take a risk with the all-rounder’s fitness before the T20 World Cup in October-November. Too much workload could prove to be disastrous for Pandya and hence the decision to continue with him in T20s only. Dhawan is in the scheme of things for the ODI World Cup in 2023 and there was unanimity among the selectors to go with him.
Sources have told The Telegraph that designated captain Rohit will be back as captain for the T20Is in the West Indies along with Bumrah, Pandya, Pant and Shami. Kohli is understood to have requested the team management to be rested for the five-match series in the West Indies, two of which will be held in Florida.
The team management is learnt to have requested the selectors to give the regulars a break for the ODIs while having all probable players during the T20I series. Barring a couple of slots, the squad for the T20 World Cup will be more or less finalised after the West Indies T20Is since Dravid wants to field the same set of players during the Asia Cup, which begins late August.
There is also a possibility that Ravichandran Ashwin could be part of the T20I squad against the Windies since his experience of bowling in Australian conditions could come in handy. The off-spinner had been part of the squad in the UAE but hasn’t been a regular with the T20I side since.
Kohli will also be back for the Asia Cup and the T20Is against South Africa and Australia before the World Cup. “He is very much in the scheme of things. The selectors’ plan revolve around him at No. 3/4. It would be naive to think that he will not feature in the World Cup. The intensity he brings to the field is enough to give goosebumps to the opposition,” said someone in the know of things.
The squad for the T20Is in the West Indies will be announced after the final T20I in England on July 10.