SQUASH Dif­fer­ent strokes of lead­er­ship

Sharma’s cap­taincy style of as­sur­ing play­ers their places in XI comes as re­fresh­ing change from Kohli’s oft-re­peated ‘horses for cour­ses’ pol­icy

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - LTH HE - Rutvick Me­hta

“We are not think­ing whether some­one’s ca­reer is on the line or what is go­ing to hap­pen to their fu­ture … I don’t speak to the guys, like, as­sur­ing them that their ca­reers are not on the line. That, as I said, is quite a bizarre thought to have.”

—Vi­rat Kohli, In­dia cap­tain, on the eve of the third Test against Eng­land

“When we came here, I wanted to give them the as­sur­ance that they will be play­ing all games. That’s how you make play­ers. If you know af­ter two games you are go­ing to get dropped, it’s not easy for any player.”

—Ro­hit Sharma, In­dia stand-in cap­tain, af­ter In­dia’s Asia Cup ti­tle vic­tory

One word, two cap­tains, dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives — as­sur­ance.

Vi­rat Kohli and Ro­hit Sharma are like grad­u­ates from two dis­tinct schools of lead­er­ship. The first one cen­tres solely on the im­me­di­ate out­come, so re­sult-ori­ented that the per­son­nel that de­liver those re­sults are sec­ondary. The sec­ond one is less ob­ses­sive about the fin­ish line, rather fo­cussing more on build­ing the per­son­nel that will even­tu­ally get you there.

It’s doesn’t need a rocket sci­en­tist to tell you that Kohli be­longs to the first cat­e­gory of cap­tains, while Sharma the sec­ond.

And while there is place for both styles of lead­er­ship in cricket, Sharma’s cap­taincy through­out In­dia’s vic­to­ri­ous Asia Cup cam­paign, in which the reg­u­lar cap­tain was rested, has come as a re­fresh­ing change from the one Kohli ex­hib­ited dur­ing In­dia’s Test se­ries de­feat in Eng­land.

The Kohli way

By his own ad­mis­sion, Kohli, who took over Team In­dia’s lead­er­ship man­tle from MS Dhoni across all three for­mats, isn’t a big be­liever of con­ti­nu­ity.

That no­tion is backed by an as­tound­ing num­ber — Kohli made at least one change in the play­ing XI in his first 38 Tests as cap­tain be­fore field­ing an un­changed side in the fourth Test against Eng­land.

It is un­der his and Shas­tri’s reign that the oft-re­peated term in In­dian cricket at the mo­ment was coined:

‘horses for cour­ses’.

Kohli thought it right to drop Bhu­vnesh­war Kumar for the sec­ond Test against South Africa in South Africa ear­lier this year de­spite Bhuvi be­ing In­dia’s best player in the first Test sim­ply be­cause the Cen­tu­rion track was not con­ducive to swing bowl­ing.

Kohli thought it right to pick Sharma over Ajinkya Ra­hane in two of the three South Africa Tests, de­spite the lat­ter be­ing one of In­dia’s best over­seas Test bats­man over the last few years.

Kohli thought it right to start the Eng­land Test se­ries with KL Rahul and not Chetesh­war Pu­jara, sim­ply be­cause Rahul was the form player in the lim­ited-overs se­ries, while ne­glect­ing the un­matched value of Pu­jara as a No. 3 Test bats­man.

How­ever, as the first school of lead­er­ship would ar­gue, Kohli has the re­sults to show: he has won 22 of the 40 Tests, 39 of the 52 ODIs and 11 of the 17 T20Is as In­dia cap­tain so far.

Se­cured num­bers aside, there’s no deny­ing the fact that there’s a sense of in­se­cu­rity in al­most every player’s

minds in Kohli’s Team In­dia, more so in the long­est for­mat.

Think of it, Ra­hane, Pu­jara and Mu­rali Vi­jay, three play­ers who were con­sid­ered to be in­te­gral parts of In­dia’s Test team ma­chine not too long ago, have all been dropped from the play­ing XI at some point this year.

The Sharma way

Kohli’s pol­icy is in stark con­trast to the trait Sharma has dis­played in his young cap­taincy ca­reer so far.

Apart from their con­trast­ing per­son­al­i­ties — Kohli is ex­pres­sive, im­pul­sive and an­i­mated while Sharma is calm, col­lected and com­posed — In­dia’s stand-in cap­tain be­lieves in back­ing his play­ers.

In­dia’s mid­dle-order woes in ODIs have been a trend, and the think-tank might have toyed with the idea of try­ing out as many can­di­dates as pos­si­ble to fix the is­sue in the Asia Cup, a tour­na­ment with lit­tle con­text.

Yet, Sharma stuck with Am­bati Rayudu, Di­nesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav for those slots in all the six matches, while mak­ing sweep­ing changes to the XI

only for the in­con­se­quen­tial game against Afghanistan.

Rayudu chipped in with con­sis­tent con­tri­bu­tions through­out the tour­na­ment, while Jadhav got In­dia over the line in the fi­nal de­spite battling a ham­string in­jury.

Yes, In­dia’s prob­lems in the mid­dle-order still per­sist, but the likes of Rayudu and Jadhav would at least be con­tent with the run they got in the tour­na­ment, and thus be­lieve that they are firmly in the scheme of things head­ing into the World Cup.

“I wanted to give every­body a fair run and play more games,” Sharma said af­ter the fi­nal. “That’s how you un­der­stand a player’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

In his young ca­reer as stand-in cap­tain, Sharma has taken In­dia to two multi­na­tion tour­na­ment ti­tles — the T20 Ni­da­has Tro­phy in Sri Lanka and the Asia Cup — be­sides be­ing a three-time IPL-win­ning cap­tain.

Kohli is, with­out doubt, the undis­puted leader in In­dian cricket presently. But per­haps he would do well to take a leaf out of his stand-in cap­tain’s lead­er­ship book.

Ro­hit Sharma (left) and Vi­rat Kohli not only have con­trast­ing per­son­al­i­ties on the field but also pos­sess dif­fer­ent traits as lead­ers

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