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Rohit Sharma: The sometimes captain

If he can stretch this to the final, India will have a credible captaincy alternative to Virat Kohli, should the regular captain miss a limited-overs assignment.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Updated: Sep 27, 2018, 11.19 PM IST
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By Anand Vasu

When Rohit Sharma first captained the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, a team that included the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Lasith Malinga, he often cut a slightly forlorn, desperate figure.

The image of him at deep midwicket, hands on head when a catch had been dropped, or him trying to get the attention of a fielder he wanted moved, was a constant one. But, as he grew in experience, as he led his men more and more often and the team began to win, there was a visible change. Now Rohit stayed in the infield, in control of proceedings, directing traffic and staying tuned to the game. That change, that metamorphosis even, has held him in good stead when he has had the opportunity to stand in for Virat Kohli as captain in limitedovers cricket.

Rohit is a proactive captain, especially when it comes to working out batsmen. Rohit the captain thinks like a batsman, and is excellent at creating the right match-ups. He has an instinct for when to bring on which bowler and fortunately for him MS Dhoni knows exactly what fields to set. The two have worked like a dream in tandem in this Asia Cup. Bangladesh have played well enough to get to the final, and their recent record against India is excellent, India having the edge 4-3 in the last seven 50-over matches the two teams have played. But, outside of Bangladesh, the team is less of a force and with Tamim Iqbal and Shakib al Hasan missing the final through injury, India certainly have the edge. Add to this the fact that Rohit has been in tremendous form – 23, 52, 83* and 111* being his scores in the tournament before he sat out the final game against Afghanistan – it’s safe to say India are favourites.

If he can stretch this to the final, India will have a credible captaincy alternative to Virat Kohli, should the regular captain miss a limited-overs assignment. Rohit, who spoke about his captaincy in an interview to the Indian Express after having success in the IPL, has never chased the role with the Indian team but he has been imaginative and astute every time he’s been asked to play the role. “As a captain it’s my duty to know the strengths of my players and read their mind, and find out what they can do for the team,” explained Rohit.

“What they want to do, what is their aim. In pressure situations, what they will do. I used to have casual chats with them, I never gave this impression that I have come for some important talk. It used to be normal conversation, but at the same time my purpose was set.” What Rohit said three years ago remains completely valid, especially his ideas around man management. “You have to just leave them alone, don’t put too much pressure,” he said. “One needs to give a free hand, only then will these young cricketers open up because as a youngster I have also gone through the same route. When I was making my way in senior side I knew what I wanted. I just wanted a free hand from coach, captain and team management.

This is how I look at it.” It is often said that the Indian prime minister’s job is the second most difficult in the country, the most difficult being the Indian cricket captain. But Rohit does not take leadership as a burden, but rather as an opportunity to do more. “Captaincy brings more match awareness,” he said. “As a player you don’t think much about planning, but once you are leading, you are more aware of what need to be done.

“You learn a lot when you lead a side. Whether to bring that bowler or not? How shall I break this partnership? These are things which keep running in the head constantly.” Rohit’s role will be twofold in the final. Switch on hitman mode when at the crease and then ease into the role of boss man on the field. If either comes off, India will come out on top.

Asia Cup 2018: Detailed Coverage
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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