Rohit Sharma : The Man who deserves Dhoni's Legacy

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July 13, 2002, chasing a massive English total of 325 at Lord’s, captain Sourav Ganguly along with Virender Sehwag gave India a blistering start. The skipper knew the team had nothing to lose -- if India win, they would lift the third NatWest tri-series trophy and if they lose, they would come back with a couple of world-class young players -- Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif. Ganguly made a quick 60 off 43 balls and gave India the start they needed. Thanks to him, the mammoth target looked gettable as India crossed 100 in the 11th over. He, eventually, fell prey to Alex Tudor, but not before setting a platform for other batmen to follow. And the rest, as they say, is history. Nine years later, on April 2, 2011, at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, another captain ended the 28-year long drought, winning the ICC World Cup which was last lifted by an Indian in 1983. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s 91-run knock off 79 under a tough situation made him the national hero and “coolest” captain for the present generation. The Man-of-Match of the final has played several other match-winning innings, but the cricket fraternity will always remember him for his undeterred act after promoting himself to the number 4, for first time in the tournament. May 24, 2015, despite getting a poor start, Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma led from the front and blasted 50 off just 26 balls. He along with Lendl Simmons made a 119-run stand off just 67 balls for the second wicket and helped his side set a massive target of 203 for the Chennai Super Kings at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens. The Dhoni-led side lost the IPL8 final by 41 runs. These three innings have had something similar – determination, self-belief, calmness, yet hungriness for success. These three leaders turned the table on its head whenever it required the most. Thus, their leadership qualities justifies their success. But like every cricketer, Ganguly witnessed ups and downs in his career, and Dhoni is no exception. Soon after India crashed out of the 2015 World Cup, despite reaching the semifinal, questions were raised about Dhoni’s captaincy. While a few backed him, most experts believed it was time for the Ranchi boy to pass on the baton to Virat Kohli, who had already taken over the Test captaincy.his Kohli believes in detecting own terms on the field. He is chirpy, aggressive and emotional. However, when Kohli was named skipper, there were many who were against the decision because they felt he wasn't mature enough. There are experts who felt that he got the job because India lacked options. But is this really the fact? Records suggest no. In fact, the records suggest Rohit is the best option India have at the moment. Everyone believes that the Indian ODI opener is a true successor of the likes of VVS Laxman, Mohammad Azharuddin. But, he did little justice to his natural talent. Nevertheless, IPL 2013 gave his career a new shape. He was made the captain of the Mumbai Indians and he led from the front, piling on a heap of runs and the confidence was there for everyone to see. He was very calm, composed and did not let the pressure get the better of him and clinched their first IPL playing against the CSK, who have been to six IPL finals out of eight seasons.

Rohit as Captain

Rohit is yet to lead Team India in any format, but he has certainly left a huge impact with his leadership quality while captaining Mumbai Indians in the IPL, giving the national selectors an option to think beyond Kohli post Dhoni’s ODI retirement. In Mumbai Indians' dramatic turnaround for the second time in two IPL seasons, Rohit has stood tall as a captain of the sinking ship. Mumbai's campaign took a while to take off but once it did, Rohit played a key role ensuring there was no looking back. In 16 games, he made 482 runs at an average of 34.42 and a strike-rate of 144.74.

Virat or Rohit?

After the recent series loss against much lower ranked Bangladesh by 1-2, things don’t look good for Dhoni again. Kohli, on the other hand, seems to be the obvious choice as India's next captain. But let’s face it! Kohli’s records as a captain has not been very impressive. Be it India or Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL, Kohli has not achieved what has been expected of him. There is, no doubt, that he possesses a superior cricketing brain. He knows how to work his magic on the bowlers, how to find the gaps, how to turn on the heat as and when required! But captaincy isn’t just about scoring runs or taking wickets yourself. It is about playing for your teammates first and then yourself. It is about valuing the success of your teammates more than your success. And this is where Rohit, as a captain, has stolen the show. While the RCB lost to the CSK in each of the three matches that they played, the MI defeated the CSK thrice in four matches, thanks to Rohit crafty captaincy. As a batsman, if Kohli has already created a milestone by scoring the fastest 22 ODI centuries in 161 matches, Rohit is the only individual with two double-hundreds to his name, including the highest ODI score of 264 which he scored against Sri Lanka in 2014.

Perfect for T20 Captaincy

Considering his performance in T20 cricket, Rohit looks a perfect man to lead the national side. He was made the captain of the Mumbai Indians in 2013 after Ricky Ponting sat out following his ordinary run. The result was unexpected. He led his side to win their maiden IPL title against the same CSK at the Eden Gardens. He repeated the magic two seasons later at the same venue against the same opponents, taking Mumbai home after losing four straight matches in the beginning, something that Imran Khan's Pakistan had done in the 1992 World Cup. When Rohit comes out to bat, he looks like a lazy lad initially, but once he finds his grip, every bowler looks ordinary before him. He is often said to be the “most talented” batsman in the world. But as a captain, he is flexible. He can bat where his team wants him to. In IPL, he started off as Aaron Finch’s opening partner this season, but it wasn’t working and poor starts were affecting MI. Within a couple of games he had moved down to No 4, and later to No 3. The change clicked. "He (Rohit) has scored two double-hundreds in ODIs opening the innings. Could you have imagined all these things without gaining confidence from T20 cricket, where guys keep hitting so consistently that they build confidence to do it throughout 50 overs?" Kohli told ESPNCricinfo during a recent interview. Kohli’s words say a lot about his team mate’s talent in the limited over cricket.

Resemblances to Dhoni

Dhoni doesn’t need any certificate to verify his contribution to the Indian cricket. While Ganguly took his side to the 2003 World Cup final, Dhoni realised the former captain's unfulfilled dream, not once but twice. Dhoni's biggest success mantra is his calmness and positivity even under immense pressure. Although Dhoni and Kohli share a great friendship, both have different approach towards the game. Rohit, on the other hand, has many resembles with the Indian ODI skipper, though except their batting style. They look steady and composed in panic situation, unlike Kohli, who looks restless and dejected while captaining. Great Brian Lara has once said the best player in the team not necessarily can be a good captain. His words hold true as far as India is concerned. History has shown us time and again that world’s two best batsmen, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar never became good leaders. It is most important that the captain takes out the best of his team. In their case, this quality rarely reflected on them. The advantage of making Rohit the captain would be that it will allow Virat, dubbed as next Tendulkar, to concentrate on his game, like happened when Ganguly was made the captain, which allowed the cricketing “God” to concentrate on his batting. Their next generation did something similar. Yuvraj, perhaps the best player during his peak time, gifted Dhoni two World Cups – T20 in 2007 and ODI in 2011.

Golden Opportunity

With Zimbabwe tour coming up next, the selectors have decided to rest skipper Dhoni and vice-captain Kohli, and field a second string team. It will be Rohit’s best opportunity to make his mark as a captain in the national side. If he manages to win the series, the BCCI may put its money on him as Dhoni’s successor.

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