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Cricket: Who will lead India after Virat Kohli’s exit?

Rohit Sharma is the firm favourite, but Rishabh Pant may be an inspired choice



Rohit Sharma is the obvious pick to succeed Virat Kohli as India's Test captain.
Image Credit: AFP

Who will be the new India captain? The question emerged soon after Virat Kohli laid down the Test captaincy on Saturday. A couple of names spring to mind, but none of them is a firm candidate for a long reign.

Ajinkya Rahane had led India admirably whenever Kohli was unavailable, but the veteran’s form has been so patchy that it would be a miracle if he retains his place in the squad. That rules him out. In any case, Rahane wasn’t the vice-captain during the South Africa tour.

KL Rahul led India when Kohli missed the second Test in Johannesburg through injury. So he could well be a candidate. But he’s no Kohli, judging from how he leads the Punjab Kings. The man from Karnataka leads from the front, and his batting credentials are superb, but his tactical acumen is largely unknown.

The case for Rishabh Pant

The Indian Premier League games are brutal, and Punjab haven’t qualified for the knockout stage. And Rahul hasn’t yet shown flashes of brilliance, an inspired move or a tendency to go for the jugular. He was, at best, a defensive captain. Maybe, that could be largely due to the team’s composition.

Kohli had the advantage of a superior attack. The pace pack was phenomenal, and spinners too were of high quality. And he was always keen to field a five-man attack to win Test matches. Talk about aggression, and you can’t top that.

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The new captain will inherit a super-fit team and one of the best attacks in the world. How he deploys them in quest of wins will define his captaincy.

Rohit Sharma is the white-ball captain, and his fitness issues are a big worry. At 34, he’s got only a few more years of international cricket left and could be overlooked if the Indian cricket board wants a long-term solution for Test captaincy. His leadership skills are flawless, and Mumbai Indians’ five titles are ample testimony.

At the moment, Sharma is the odds-on favourite to take over from Kohli. But I would prefer someone younger, someone more adventurous. So my pick would be Rishabh Pant, who’s barely led the Delhi Capitals for a season. That makes him an unknown quantity. But that would be an exciting gamble.

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If he can bring the same batting aggression to his captaincy, Pant would be an absolute delight. Forget his recklessness. Maybe, the added responsibility may help temper his batting. I think he could be a leader in the Kapil Dev mould.

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Pant is young, and there’s plenty of cricket ahead of him. If India’s not seeking immediate success, the Delhi lad will make an inspired choice. But the Board for Control of Cricket in India would play it safe. They would want to build on the success of Kohli’s team. So Sharma will be anointed captain and Rahul his deputy when India plays Sri Lanka in February.

If not captaincy, Pant should be made vice-captain to groom him to take over from Sharma. That would be the perfect solution.

Shyam A. Krishna
Shyam A. Krishna is Senior Associate Editor at Gulf News. He writes on health and sport.