In the T20 format, captaincy is a vital aspect of a game. Often, it’s those key decisions on the field that becomes the difference between winning and losing matches. A captain is as good as his team, however, from field placements, picking the right bowlers in the different stages of a match to setting the right balance in a side, a skipper is crucial for the fortunes of a team. When you look at the best captains in the Indian Premier League (IPL) over the years, these attributes stated above have separated them from the rest. Be it Rohit Sharma, who has led Mumbai Indians to five IPL honours or the success of MS Dhoni in the colours of Chennai Super Kings, captaincy is what has been colossal for the success of these two champion units.
The 2021 edition of the IPL is set to start from April 9 onwards. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, this season will witness action behind closed doors. Also, the venues have been restricted to just six with the bio-bubble in place. With no home comforts for sides, the job of the captain will multiply in terms of application. Playing in neutral venues with the absence of fans is what will be a test for skippers and their respective sides. Ahead of the 2021 edition, we present an analysis of all the eight captains and what they will offer.
MS Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings)
With 188 matches as captain under his belt, CSK stalwart MS Dhoni is set to be the first player with 200 games as a leader in the competition. With a success rate of 58.82, Dhoni will be chasing a fourth honour with the Super Kings. Dhoni has been one of the greatest captains to have graced the sport. In international cricket and in the IPL, his legacy will be unmatched. What Dhoni brings to the table is that players often get settled and adapt to his style. He is a master behind the stumps often very calculated with his decision making. After a poor IPL 2020 campaign, MSD will hope to bring joy to the faces of fans. His vast knowledge will be key.
Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians)
Rohit is perhaps the best captain in the shortest format of the game. His enormous success as a leader is there for everyone to see. Five IPL titles as a leader, besides a win percentage of 60.34, Rohit is an example for budding captains to take away the positives from his offerings. With MI aiming to win a third successive IPL title, Rohit’s determination and hunger will be huge. MI has a settled core unit and everyone knows their roles. This is a major help for Rohit, who allows players to express themselves. He leads from the front and is very articulate when it comes to detailing the game and the opponent side. His planning is what sets him above the rest.
Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders)
2019 World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan had to take the mantle from Dinesh Karthik midway in the IPL 2020 season. In seven games, Morgan notched three wins as KKR missed out on a playoffs berth. Morgan will have the complete season to address this time around. He knows the side now and a balance is what he will be expected to bring forward. Morgan reads the game completely well and he isn’t someone, who goes in with a fixed plan. He is someone who identifies the vital aspects of a game and hands out responsibility to players he knows will respond well. Morgan is level headed and KKR could benefit from his experience to a large extent.
Rishabh Pant (Delhi Capitals)
Delhi Capitals named Rishabh Pant as their skipper for the 14th edition after Shreyas Iyer was ruled out due to a dislocated shoulder. Pant has a big job ahead of him, What bodes well for Pant is that he can learn from experienced players such as Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane, and R Ashwin. With Ricky Ponting as DC’s coach, Pant’s learnings will be immense. If he can bring these attributes and knowledge into the field, DC will benefit. It’s new territory for Pant in terms of captaining in the IPL. DC have made a bold decision to go ahead with him.
David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
David Warner has been a consistent force in the IPL. Be it with the bat or leading the side from the front, Warner has set a positive example. Under his guidance, SRH have won the title back in 2016. They have also been a consistent side in terms of reaching the playoffs. With a strong bowling unit on offer, Warner knows he is always in the game. Warner is an aggressive leader and is expressive. He carries the team forward with the bat and on the field, his standards are very high. The players enjoy his leadership and his vocal nature of having key words during games. Warner will hope to address a few shortcomings and help his side.
KL Rahul (Punjab Kings)
This will be the second season where KL Rahul will lead Punjab Kings in the IPL. He gave a decent account of himself in IPL 2020. Being the current Orange Cap holder and the highest run-scorer for Punjab across the last three seasons, Rahul has carried his side. His inputs and reading the situations well will prove to be handy. Punjab will need to finish off games and this is a region where Rahul needs work. His bowling changes and not much tinkering with the team will also need to be addressed.
Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Despite leading the side from 2013, Kohli has failed to reach the heights in RCB colours as a leader. He hasn’t matched the success of his achievements as Team India captain. For Kohli, this season brings another test of character. RCB have been highly inconsistent under his leadership. Too many changes, coupled with an overhaul of the side in almost every season have taken away the balance. There is too much pressure on Kohli, who has been the major contributor every season. He needs to be more accountable and garner the best from his side. Being an intense personality, Kohli needs his main troops to get behind him.
Sanju Samson (Rajasthan Royals)
Rajasthan Royals appointed Sanju Samson as skipper after releasing Steve Smith. The Indian batsman has a crucial role to address this season. Samson, like Pant, will need to be settled and calm. This will be a severe test for the versatile 27-year-old. Samson is happy to take over as RR’s leader and simplicity is what can get him to do well. He is backing himself and looks confident. It remains to be seen how he handles the dual role of batting and leading the side. He has a big task in hand to change RR’s fortunes, who finished bottom last season.