There is a common saying in sports that “the captain is only as good as his team” but if a captain leads from the front, the team will win more matches than they lose.
Yesterday was the perfect example between Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals. One captain lead from the front in all departments, be it batting, bowling and fielding and that was Hardik Pandya.
He scored 87 runs of 52 balls, bowled 2.3 overs and got the crucial wicket of James Neesham, took one catch and a fantastic run out of the opposite captain top win the match for his team comprehensively and also take them to the top of the points table after five games.
On the other hand, Rajasthan skipper Sanju Samson was clueless. He had run out of ideas when the Gujarat batsmen were going hammer and tongs in the slog overs and handed the crucial 19th over to inexperienced bowler Kuldeep Sen who was taken for 21 runs and in the end he allowed the Titans to get a big score of 192.
And in a bizarre move, Samson sent Ravichandran Ashwin to bat at number 3 after the fall of the first wicket instead of himself. Jos Buttler was going hell for leather on the other end tearing the opposition bowling apart and was striking at a staggering rate of 225. This was the ideal time for the captain to come in and get his eye in and get set and what you see is Ashwin walking out to bat at number 3.
It was baffling for many reasons as Ashwin is not a specialist batsman. Secondly if the idea was to send a pinch hitter to keep the momentum, James Neesham could have been tried out. Neesham is a left hander and hits the ball hard. Thirdly, the same Ashwin was retired hurt or called back in the earlier game against Royal Challengers Bangalore so that quick runs could be scored in the end as Ashwin is not someone who can hurt the opposition in the slog overs. Fourth reason, the power play was going on and after two overs Rajasthan Royals were 28 and the need of the hour was to capitalize on the start given by Buttler as the team was chasing 9.5 runs per over and it made no sense to send someone like Ashwin.
It gave out a wrong message both as a captain and as a good batsman that he was not ready to take the mantle on himself to score the runs as his opposite captain did. Moreover, in going for a suicidal run, he was run out by Pandya and his team lost the plot and were out of the game and comprehensively beaten by Gujarat by 37 runs after being 65 at the end of six overs.
On one hand you have a captain in Pandya who has shown two sides of his game in this IPL, playing restraint cricket when it mattered and going berserk when the situation demanded and on the other side you have a captain whose talent always flatters to deceive, that’s Samson for you.