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Can Rahul deliver the goods as India captain?

With Sri Lanka ready to board the flight to India, the Indian selectors have two important tasks. First, to select a man to lead the Indian Test team. Second, to sort out a misfiring middle-order. The first one being top priority.

India TV Sports Desk Written by: India TV Sports Desk
New Delhi Published on: January 18, 2022 17:29 IST
File photo of KL Rahul
Image Source : GETTY

File photo of KL Rahul

The winds of change are blowing rather fast in Indian cricket. It started with Virat Kohli resigning as Team India's T20 captain. Rohit Sharma was then elevated to the role of captain in both ODIs and T20Is, despite Kohli's insistence to continue as 50-overs captain. 

With the dust settling down after a week-long controversy involving Kohli and BCCI, it was time for the African safari. It was India's best chance to win a series and script history in South Africa. 

The start was promising, the end disappointing. If a series loss was a hard pill to swallow, Kohli stepping down as Test captain was a bolt from the blue. 

The Captaincy Conundrum

With Sri Lanka ready to board the flight to India, the Indian selectors have two important tasks. First, to select a man to lead the Indian Test team. Second, to sort out a misfiring middle-order. The first one being top priority. 

The Contenders 

Rohit Sharma is the designated Test vice-captain and ideally should have handed over the reins. But with age being a factor, Rohit might miss out on becoming a full-time Test captain. However, the board might ask the Mumbaikar to lead India in all formats for the upcoming series, before they zero in on a permanent Test captain. Till then, KL Rahul will serve as Rohit's deputy.

Irrespective of whosoever is given the charge for India in the whites, there remains a herculean task to carry forward given the legacy Kohli had set during his reign. As the Karnataka-born KL Rahul is emerging out to the biggest probable to lead the Indian side in the longest format of the game, his cricketing journey with the captaincy badge hasn't been that successful. 

Prior to captaining the Johannesburg Test which India lost by seven wickets, the 29-year-old had captained Karnataka only in one first-class game. In the Test that Rahul was handed the charge of, ‘missing intent' was something that writ large on the Indian players' faces. With Rahul being handed the vice-captaincy in Tests ahead of the South Africa series, his run as a deputy where could pick up nuances from Kohli hasn't been that elaborated either. 

A segment might vouch for his IPL captaincy to back him up as the Test leader but Punjab Kings win records where Rahul was at the helm of affairs wasn't that impressive too. Even if Rahul had inarguably performed promising with the willow, as a unit he couldn't get the pink brigade through. Rahul-led Punjab lost approximately 40 percent of the games in both seasons combined, failing to qualify for the playoffs in either edition. On top of it, it is unwise to compare performances and leadership in these formats of the game as they are totally poles apart.

The wobbly concerns apply to Rishabh Pant in a similar fashion who is also being talked about as a probable in the Test captaincy contention. The 24-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who comes to the rescue to hand India wins in the unthinkably-struck matches overseas, has to be a regular performer for India in the whites. Just when he exhibits his show with the bat, he will increase his count in the Test cricket that will gradually mature him as a player. Even for him, a captaincy stint in just a handful of matches for Delhi Capitals in the IPL  would be an unintelligible basis to confer Test leader responsibility. 

While it may be easy to conjecture to elevate Rahul's and Pant's stature to a Test captain in discussions, there is a lot of nurturing that has to be done. Otherwise, the inheritance in the whites would be a little heavy on the duo's shoulders which lacks even the desired apprenticeship in the red-ball game.