A day before the 2017 IPL final between Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Super Giants, Rohit Sharma had to take a tough decision. Two-time champion MI skipper Rohit was gunning for a hat-trick of titles and had to choose between leg-spinner Karn Sharma or senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who had his best days behind him but was still a force to reckon with in big games. Rohit went to Harbhajan’s hotel room, spoke to him about the possible team combination he is planning to field and ensured that the feisty ‘Turbanator’ doesn’t feel hurt or insulted on missing out on IPL final.
That is what Rohit brings to the table as a captain of a high-stakes national team in a ruthless world of professional sport — the human element in a universe where end justifies the means.
The final result is always sacrosanct but there are characters, who can’t be judged by results and Rohit falls in that category.
The manner in which he has led the Indian team, you want him to stay as long as his mind and body allows him to shoulder the responsibility.
Before the World Cup in an exclusive interview to PTI, Rohit had spoken how he wanted to create memories during the World Cup with this team.
And 25 days into the tournament, there is now doubt that the Indian skipper is walking the talk and leading from the front with his inspirational knocks.
Kapil Dev was a doer, Mohammed Azharuddin was aloof, Sourav Ganguly was all instincts, Rahul Dravid was more into methods, MS Dhoni was a general with firm grip and Virat Kohli is the alpha-male everyone looks up to.
So where does Rohit fit in among the Indian captains, who have led the country in previous World Cups since 1983? Rohit will always be there as someone who was, is and will remain a ‘Players’ Captain’ as the Harbhajan episode will give you an example.
The difference between captain and leader is very subtle and a lot of people get caught somewhere in between. They suffer the most as the crown sits heavy on the head and the team also gets affected.
But bringing his own brand of captaincy, where he is colleague, elder brother and team boss at the same time has worked wonderfully well with the ‘Hit-Man’.
He exactly knows when he needs Shardul Thakur and what exactly are the situations where a big name like Ravichandran Ashwin will fit into the system.
He understands what is Suryakumar Yadav’s role in the side and why Kuldeep Yadav is absolutely indispensable in this ODI set-up.
Make no mistake, when England arrive for Test series next year, if Rohit leads the side (he most probably will), you will perhaps find Axar Patel playing ahead of Kuldeep and that is because that will be the need of the hour.
In his head, Rohit is the most secured man, who knows what he needs to do and how his expectations and goals will be perceived by 14 others, who share that change room with him.
A secured individual always has clarity in his decision-making and herein Rohit has already passed the test with distinction.
Changing narrative of looking at stats ======================== Talking about security, that is how Rohit changed his batting style and went on an ultra-aggressive mode, something he had told the team management well in advance.
“It was purely my choice. My usual batting is still my patent, but I wanted to try something else,” he had told PTI.
“I am very happy with the result. Everyone wants to bat long and score those 150s and 170s. I still want to do that, but it is always nice to do something that you have not done. It only adds up in your list of batting abilities. Unless you do it, you won’t know it.
“I know if I play high risk shots, I will get out few times but I didn’t bother. This was communicated by me to the management that this is how I want to play,” he said.
He is changing the narrative of how one would assess top players. It was earlier based on averages, how many hundreds and fifties they scored, but what Rohit is doing or done to a great extent is put people’s focus on the impact.
Right now, no one is saying ‘oh Rohit didn’t get a 50 or hey, Rohit missed out on a hundred.
Perhaps the perception is changing how fans and experts would judge players in the coming days. A century is important but people are talking about 30-ball-45 or a 50-ball-68, which could be more impactful in larger scheme of things.
As Rohit had said that he doesn’t mind getting out as he knows that there is a Shubman Gill at the other end and Virat Kohli and dependable KL Rahul to follow. There are x-factor men like Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya, so he doesn’t need to think about risks.
“He is scoring his 50 in 35-38 balls as of now. If he wants to think about 100, he can easily slow down and score the next 50 off 60 balls and yet it would be a run-a-ball century. But if you look at him, he isn’t thinking about hundreds,” Deep Dasgupta, former India keeper said.
Against England, he had identified the 37-38th over to up the tempo. He didn’t look at 13 more singles which were easier to get. It would have been a matter of five more overs had he decided to play cautiously.
He saw the ball in his range and went for it and execution was slightly wrong.
A lot of times, people put brakes on scoring before a 100 and again believe in teeing off pot landmark. Often the team loses out on 15-20 precious runs and also the momentum. But not when Rohit is around.
Whether India finally regains the World Cup is another question but Rohit Sharma, the leader has ticked all the boxes. Rohit, the captain is just following the leader.
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