Did Rahul Dravid see this coming his way when he took over the coaching role from Ravi Shastri?
Rohit Sharma will lead India in the T20s, Virat Kohli to continue as captain for ODIs and Test cricket must have been the expectation for everyone. Did anyone anticipate that the selectors had other plans for white-ball leadership, and Virat was planning a major surprise in 2022?
A couple of months into his new role as India’s coach, Rahul Dravid will have to address some of the challenges that will shape the future of Indian cricket across all formats of the game.
Rohit Sharma is a proven leader in the white-ball format. His credentials in IPL and also the matches he led India in the absence of Kohli showcases his skills. However, India’s Test leadership is in a different space.
Virat Kohli’s decision to quit Test Captaincy has left a vacuum at the helm of leadership, and that will be the immediate challenge Dravid has to address.
What makes it Challenging for Dravid?
In an ideal world, Captain Virat Kohli had a natural successor in Test cricket in Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane’s record as a Test captain is impeccable, and he has won matches away from home with relatively inexperienced players. He is no longer the vice-captain and doesn’t have an assured place in the playing eleven due to his batting woes over the last couple of years.
Rohit Sharma’s elevation as vice-captain came just ahead of the tour of South Africa, which he couldn’t play due to an injury. Virat Kohli announcing his decision soon after the series loss against South Africa left the team with no other player having the opportunity to play Virat’s deputy role for a while to ensure a smooth transition into the captaincy role.
Rahane is no more in the race for the top job. Pujara is also struggling with his batting. Both the player’s position in the team is under the radar.
The current scenario leaves the selectors to pick a new captain who is yet to prove their leadership skills in the pinnacle format of the game.
Rohit Sharma will be the top contender for the captaincy. He comes into the role without a specific leadership experience in the Test format. The team will hope his overall experience will compensate for that.
His fitness issues, age, and workload across three formats will decide his availability for every test match India plays in the future. He may play a transition role as a captain until a younger player is ready for the job.
KL Rahul may be the next choice, and selectors may consider Pant as future options. Whoever the next captain be, the scenario will leave Dravid to work with someone who doesn’t have enough game time to transition into the captaincy role.
Rohit’s workload management
Dravid will also have to do comprehensive workload management for his team. Rohit’s fitness struggles and leading across all formats may result in the next appointed Vice-captain taking up the captaincy role more often than usual. Dravid will have to play a role in setting expectations that Rohit may play as a transition captain to one of the younger players in the team in a couple of years.
Who will fill in the shoes of Rahane and Pujara?
Hanuma Vihari can bat at five instead of Rahane. He has done that in the past whenever Rahane batted at four. He played a brilliant knock recently in the second test against South Africa. He is capable of batting well with the lower-order and making crucial partnerships.
Replacing Pujara won’t be an easy task for the team. He is batting at a crucial position in the Test format. He has proved it many times in home and away conditions the value he brings to number three.
However, Dravid will soon have to identify someone to fill Pujara’s shoes shortly. No team can afford their number three not contributing with runs.
India may have to groom players like Shreyas Iyer and Srikar Bharat to take up the role of number three on the side.
Younger team for the future?
Mayank Agarwal and Gill are available as reserve openers which sort out the issue even if Rohit Sharma miss matches. Shreyas Iyer, Pant in middle order can play for India a longer-term.
The pace bowling attack has depth and is growing from strength to strength. The spin department is always strong in Indian conditions, with Ashwin, Jadeja, and Axar Patel forming an unbeatable force.