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Rohit Sharma To Rishabh Pant: Leading Contenders For India’s Test Captaincy

Virat Kohli’s bombshell announcement that he is stepping down from the Test Captaincy effective immediately has pushed the Indian cricket team into turmoil. Virat Kohli has led the team from success to success in his seven years at the helm, converting the team from home bullies to a world-conquering side. Even before the South Africa tour, there were controversies galore as the management decided to give the reins of both the ODI and T20I sides to Rohit Sharma, reportedly upsetting the skipper.

Virat Kohli might not have got the perfect ending to his captaincy that he hoped for as the team failed to conquer their final bastion. However, stepping down from captaincy might just reawaken the batsman inside Kohli as he now can fully focus on his contribution with the bat for the team. The question now turns to the possible contenders for Test captaincy, as the team has to make a decision before the Test series against Sri Lanka in February.

Here, we take a look at the top contenders for Test captaincy, with the Indian team likely to get a complete makeover as it enters a new era:

 

ROHIT SHARMA

The obvious choice for the team and the lead contender for the post, Rohit Sharma’s elevation as Test captain will once again give the team unified leadership structure across all formats. The Team Mumbai skipper has been given charge of the limited-overs cricket team already and has the required experience in leading the Indian team. Rohit Sharma has the experience of closely working with Virat Kohli as the team’s vice-captain, and much like the relationship between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli, the duo is likely to work well together.

Appointing Rohit Sharma will also allow India to continue with its well-established practice of having a single captain across all formats. With two World Cups approaching and the World Test Championship to fight for, the team requires stability above all. India can continue with the tradition of resting the captain for unimportant tours, allowing the all-format captain to manage his workload. Rohit Sharma was announced the vice-captain of the Indian Test side before the South Africa series but had to miss out due to injury.

Going by the established practice and his impeccable record, Rohit Sharma is the top contender to fill India’s Test captain role.

 

AJINKYA RAHANE

Ajinkya Rahane had been removed as the team’s long-standing vice-captain before the South Africa tour, but he is still a possible option for taking up the captaincy role. He has the experience of leading the Indian squad in the longest format of the game whenever Virat Kohli was absent and boasts of a perfect track record In Tests. India have played five Tests with Rahane at the helm, and won four of them, with one Test ending in a draw.

But both Ajinkya Rahane’s and Cheteshwar Pujara’s places on the team are under continued scrutiny. With Rahul Dravid now solidifying his coaching methods, the duo in all likelihood had their final chance in the just-concluded South Africa tour. Despite a few bright spots, the consensus is that the duo is now a burden to the team. Rahane’s future in the game is itself in doubt, which might rule out his elevation as the team’s captain.

 

KL RAHUL

KL Rahul’s career in red-ball cricket has taken a turn for the better since the England tour last year. Ignored for years as India’s first-choice opener, Rahul made the best of given opportunities to steadily rise in the team. Rohit Sharma’s absence for the South Africa tour gave him an opportunity to lead the team in the second Test. Rahul is just 29, and compared to either Rohit Sharma or Ajinkya Rahane, has a long stint left in his career. That might make him one of the leading contenders for the job.

Rahul’s ability to manage pressure was evident in the Indian T20 League, where he not only led Team Punjab ably but also became the top batsman in the league for two seasons in a row. He will be leading the team in the ODI series against South Africa, and if he is able to successfully lead the team to a series win, his hat will be firmly in the ring for the Test captaincy role.

 

JASPRIT BUMRAH

Picking Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane or KL Rahul will be the standard practice for the Indian team where batsmen have always been preferred for the captaincy role. But BCCI and the management could surprise everyone by picking a bowler as a captain, that too a pacer such as Jasprit Bumrah. Australia’s experiment with Pat Cummins has paid dividends, with the Aussies decimating England 4-0 in the Ashes. The success of the Indian team in red-ball cricket overseas has been majorly due to the quality of its pacers in recent years, and Jasprit Bumrah has been the talisman of the transformation.

Jasprit Bumrah has no doubt the quality and the talent to lead the Indian team, but his inexperience with captaincy works against him. Besides, fast bowlers are prone to injuries and fatigue, raising the prospect of having a stand-in captain at all times. Bumrah has been rested so far for domestic series, where the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have more influence. While he has expressed his readiness to lead the team, Bumrah’s elevation would surely be a surprise.

 

RISHABH PANT

Rishabh Pant might be just 24, but his versatility behind the wickets and aggressive attitude make him a good candidate to continue Virat Kohli’s legacy in Tests. He led Team Delhi to the finals of the Indian T20 League in 2020, displaying his ability to lead a team. But relative inexperience might work against the wicketkeeper. Rishabh Pant has attracted criticism for taking chances at critical moments in the game, and the team management might decide to wait a few more years before considering Rishabh Pant as the team’s skipper.

In all likelihood, the captaincy is likely to go into the hands of Rohit Sharma. The team would be taking a huge risk by giving the captaincy to Jasprit Bumrah or Rishabh Pant, but the Indian team has become adept at taking short-term risks for long-term gain and might surprise everyone with their selection.

 

 

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