There is a lazy elegance about Rohit Sharma the batsman. He is so nonchalant at the crease that any dismissal gives the impression that he has got out to a careless shot. But that is Rohit's demeanour, and it carries with it a grace and repose that makes him one of the most daunting limited-overs batsman in world cricket.
His captaincy is, however, as proactive as it gets.
Run through Rohit's T20I captaincy record and you would get a clear idea of where we would be headed in this discussion. In nine matches with Rohit at the helm, India have had eight wins, giving them a win percentage of 88.88 percent.
The relatively small sample size may lead to the easy conclusion that he is a fabulous captain. However, his tactical nuos as skipper isn't restricted to just those nine matches. He had led the Mumbai Indians to their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) title five years ago and went on to win two more in the next four years, the last of which came in the 10th edition of the IPL last year.
"When the opportunity comes (to lead India), it comes. I will grab it with both hands," Rohit said after his title winning campaign with the Mumbai Indians last year.
So far, he has stayed true to his words. His impeccable record as the skipper of the national team is enviable as is his batting record when captaining the side. In nine matches at the helm, Rohit averages 38.44 with a hundred (a 35-ball ton which turned out to be a six-fest against Sri Lanka in December) and two half-centuries.
He was uber impressive as a skipper in the series against Sri Lanka last December (the first time he led the team in a full series), promoting Mahendra Singh Dhoni up to No 4 and handing Washington Sundar the new ball on debut. Although the move seemed a tad harsh on a young Sundar, Rohit had zeroed in on his strengths and played to it.
The young off-spinner had choked the run flow with his skiddy off-breaks with the new ball even in the IPL. The ploy continued in the recently-concluded Nidahas Trophy as well and to say it changed the course of most matches in the three-nation tournament would be an understatement.
Sundar walked off with the Player of the Series award, opening the attack in every single game and conceding a mere 82 runs in 90 balls in the powerplay, picking up seven wickets in the process.
Rohit's shrewdness as a skipper is best portrayed by the fact that he had limited options with the ball during this series and yet managed to rotate his bowlers seamlessly. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were resting their tired feet after a long South African tour and with Mohammad Siraj and Jaydev Unadkat faltering, Rohit needed to manage his bowlers perfectly.
Quite a few were circumspect when the Men in Blue walked out with Vijay Shankar as the fifth bowling option in all the games, but the young all-rounder bowled back of a length and contained the scoring rate while picking up the odd wicket or two. Though he got belted in the final, Shankar was a reasonable success with the ball and much credit goes to Rohit for handling him well and bowling him at the right junctures.
The Mumbaikar had no option but to open the bowling with either Siraj or Unadkat at one end and he managed to break the monotony by having Sundar from the other, bowling niggardly lines. Shardul Thakur, previously accused of gifting too many runs early on, was primarily used as a death bowler and did extremely well to come back each time he was hit out of the attack.
None of this, though, exemplifies Rohit's brilliance as a skipper as the most discussed incident in the Nidahas Trophy finals. Shankar was promoted above Dinesh Karthik in the batting line-up with India well below the required rate in a nail-biting run chase.
The move was met with scything criticism on social media and Rohit was 'crucified' even more when India went on to concede a wicket to Mustafizur Rahman in the 18th over of the game. Rohit admitted that Karthik was pretty miffed at being demoted in the batting order, but the skipper knew exactly what he wanted from the wicket-keeper batsman.
"He (Karthik) was quite upset with that (demotion). I told him whatever skill you have, it will be required in the last three or four overs. Had we lost the game, you can say that it would have looked bad. But that was the idea – to have Dinesh at the back end, because he's batted in that position in a list of games for his state teams," Rohit said after the match.
Karthik had been quite a force in India's limited-overs sides with his slew of unbeaten knocks but as has always been the case, his performances went under the radar.
But Rohit had been privy to Karthik's abilities at the back end of an innings and chose to hold him back till the end. He even had to apparently calm down a disappointed Karthik but eventually the gamble paid off as the pumped up wicketkeeper-batsman threw caution to the wind and played an absolute gem of an innings.
The fact that Rohit entrusted the young brigade to hold their own in pressure situations - Sundar and Shankar being cases in point – and rallied together the weak links in the side shows the astute skipper he is. He leads from the front with the bat, inspires his team and isn't scared to gamble, which essentially covers every quality a team seeks from a skipper.
Perhaps it is this perfect combination of flamboyance and aloofness that makes Rohit the leader he is. With five wins in the final of multi-team events under his belt – three IPL titles, one Champions League title and the Nidahas Trophy – Rohit's reputation as a skipper is shooting up. Another successful IPL season this year would do his further boost his reputation.
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