Kolkata: There were no surprises in the announcement that Shreyas Iyer will be out for the whole of IPL 2020. A terrible blow to the young man’s hopes of leading Delhi Capitals to do one better this season - but one has to applaud the way they chose to back Rishabh Pant as their captain for such a demanding job.
The in-form wicketkeeper-batsman, who had been the toast of Indian cricket in recent months, had been the vice-captain to Iyer for the last three seasons, and his elevation reflected a clear thought process on part of the Delhi Capitals management with an eye towards the future.
When the crunch moment came with a shattering injury to Iyer, there was talk about some dilemma in their boardroom if Pant - who may be 23 but had led Delhi in Ranji Trophy one season - be the right choice for captaincy. There was also a line of thought that being the free-spirited performer that Pant is, whether the pressures of captaincy would weigh down his performance with the bat and behind the stumps.
What compounded the scenario was the presence of at least four former IPL captains in their ranks in Steve Smith, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Ashwin. It would have been a far easier call to hand over the job to one of them - given the fact that it’s a temporary arrangement - but the Delhi Capitals management decided to give Pant a chance to grow into his job. After all, it was under far more challenging circumstances in 2018 that a young Iyer was thrust the captaincy midway in the season when Gautam Gambhir - an iconic figure who had returned to the Delhi franchise after rebuilding the Kolkata Knight Riders - stepped down in view of his poor form.
If Iyer began as a somewhat shy but clear thinking leader who could rally around the likes of seasoned pros like Dhawan, Ishant Sharma or Amit Mishra in the team - there is no reason to believe that Pant cannot. It’s a calculated gamble on part of the management as he is also one of the members who is assured of his place in the playing XI.
Passionate and fearless
In their statement to the media, Capitals said that Pant embodied the passionate and fearless brand of cricket that they want to play - but it must have taken enough gumption to do this. Leading a IPL franchise has a different dynamic and the history of the league is replete with instances where captains have been changed midway in the season, with sometimes an overseas professional being thrust with the responsibility in the hope of bringing luck.
However, such decisions had hardly reaped the rewards. If teams like the Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings or Sunrisers Hyderabad had shown a greater success rate in IPL, it was retaining their core group and keeping faith in the leadership which had yielded them dividends.
Delhi, after years of overhaul and frequent experiments, seems to be walking down that path under a new management!