MUMBAI: Rohit Sharma, the white-ball captain-in-waiting for a while now, has finally been handed the baton in T20 cricket. It has passed from Virat Kohli, his teammate for close to a decade now and captain since 2017. This had been the writing on the wall for close to six months now.
The BCCI on Tuesday evening announced a 16-member squad for the three-match T20 series against New Zealand, giving the captaincy to Sharma and making opening partner KL Rahul his deputy.
Outgoing T20 skipper Virat Kohli has taken a break for the series and will be back for the Tests against New Zealand to be ready in time for the tour of South Africa later this year.
The baton in One-day cricket too could be passed on to Sharma, but the announcement will take some time to come. The BCCI has decided that white-ball captaincy cannot be split and therefore, they are left with no choice but to have a chat with Kohli on the issue.
On September 16, three days after TOI first reported that Kohli will relinquish the white-ball captaincy and Sharma will take over, the former put out a post on Instagram announcing that he was stepping down from T20 captaincy.
[email protected] all set to lead #TeamIndia’s T20I squad against New Zealand. 👍 👍How excited are you for the home series?… https://t.co/6SuvKMsLKv
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1636477909000
The decision to quit, as mentioned earlier, was Kohli’s alone and the BCCI played no role in helping him make up his mind.
However, this time around, the BCCI and Kohli may have no choice but to sit across the table and have a quiet word, unless the latter decides to post another message leading to the tour of South Africa.
The Sharma-Dravid pair will together plan and shape India’s campaign in the 2022 edition of the T20 World Cup and most likely the 2023 edition of the 50-over World Cup. KL Rahul, who has been announced as Rohit’s deputy, may continue in the same role in the 50-over format too.
Kohli’s decision to quit white-ball captaincy, even if it’s only T20 for now, is being seen as a great decision by the cricket fraternity in general.
Some BCCI officials believe “Kohli can go on to become a doubly dangerous batsman in the shorter formats without the burden of captaincy”. The BCCI, meanwhile, is convinced that Kohli’s captaincy in Test cricket has played a major role in India’s ascendancy and dominance at the top and he will continue to serve in that capacity going forward.
Outgoing coach Ravi Shastri is learnt to have been in agreement about a switch in captaincy and is understood to have told the BCCI that it will not only bring a fresh perspective to the white-ball format, but also allow Kohli to concentrate on his batting.
Kohli last scored an ODI century in August 2019 against the West Indies at the Queen’s Park Oval and has gone for 15 matches thereafter without one. The rigours have taken a toll on his Test-match batting too, and the skipper has gone without a hundred in red-ball cricket for 21 innings now.
“The good bit is that Kohli himself understands that for him to be what he aspires to be – the best in the world – he can’t allow unnecessary pressures to dictate his cricket. And he’s fortunate to be able to make that decision for himself. In team sport, that’s not always the case,” said a team source.
Life, meanwhile, will come full circle for Sharma, who saw the 2011 50-over World Cup final from the stands at the Wankhede Stadium after missing out on being part of the squad. “There’s so much he wants to make up for,” his friends say.
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