Virat Kohli’s surprise resignation as India’s Test captain has put the selectors in a tough spot. What the former did in the past seven years was once unthinkable. To carry forward that legacy won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and to find that kind of a responsible cricketer is a herculean task itself.
In the past couple of days, a number of experts have suggested several names and one of them is KL Rahul. A smart, athletic and agile cricketer who has developed himself as an all-format batsman. When needed, he is there to play the wicketkeeper’s role as well. But does he fit to be the next India Test captain?
Rahul indeed is a phenomenal batter who knows the art of delivering under pressure but not every good batter is an able captain. He was one of Indian batters who scored a ton in the recently-concluded South Africa Test and has been in a great nick lately. Some might cite the example of Kohli who was given the role in the middle of the Australia tour in 2014. But what inspired the then selectors to take this step was Kohli’s past record.
The Delhi-born came into the picture with an Under-19 World Cup triumph in 2008. His leadership was tried and tested up to some extent and the rest of the job was done by the company of MS Dhoni which lasted till 2019.
But in Rahul’s case, the experience of captaincy is something that the Karnataka batter doesn’t have enough. He travelled to South Africa as a vice-captain but prior to the series, he had led Karnataka only in one first-class game. And then comes the Jo’burg Test where he stepped into the leader’s shoes, in Kohli’s absence, but the results weren’t favourable. India not only lost the game by seven wickets but the matter ‘missing intent’ in the team popped up as well.
Let’s bring his IPL captaincy in focus. In the last two seasons, he was the flag bearer of a youngster-laden Punjab franchise that looked strong but only on paper. No doubt he did a tremendous job with the bat as the flow of runs never stopped but as mentioned above, that’s not the only way you win games.
The team lost approximately 40 percent of the games in both seasons combined, ending sixth on the points table; not even close to making it to the playoffs in either edition. Ultimately, he was released by the franchise prior to the mega auctions and now, reports say that he is set to lead the Lucknow franchise in IPL 2022.
Those who chose him as the next skipper in Tests are largely impressed with Rahul’s confidence and the ability to deal with responsibilities. But captaincy, that too in the longest format, is much more than that.
Credibility is the thing that lacks in Rahul’s case. Appointing a Test skipper on the basis of an IPL track record is pretty disconcerting. After all it’s a league which is more uncertain than the game itself. No fixed salary cap, unassured playing tenure and when it comes to captaincy – always the shiniest element is considered as the ‘Gold’.
After Rohit Sharma, Rahul seems to the frontrunner and the most surprising part of this entire episode is the lack of protest from the pundits or fans.
The selectors earlier stated that they are planning to groom Rahul as the future captain. If we go by that statement, the cricketer is still an unripe fruit and if the crown falls on his head, the fate of the empire – nurtured and built by Kohli in this case – would be under dark clouds.