Cricket is a very different game from, say Soccer. While in Soccer, it is the manager-cum coach who calls the shots almost everywhere, in cricket, Captain is the boss. You can plan as much you want in the dressing room, but when the heat is on in a tense game, all eyes are on the captain to make decisions whether it is the bowling change, field placement or the use of the Decision Review System.
Just Ask Tim Paine? His appalling review in the closing moments of the Leads Test cost his side the game, resulting in him coming under scrutiny. But apart from the on-field calls, the captains in Cricket also have a great say on Team selections and sometimes their decision regarding a particular player can help him alleviate his game to the next level and vice-versa.
Here’s a look at three moves by the Indian captains which turned out to be a masterstroke
1. Ganguly slotting Sehwag as an opener in Tests
Imagine! You’re Virender Sehwag (No! you’re not). You’ve come into a side that boasts of a middle-order to the tune of ‘The Wall’- Rahul Dravid, the maharaja Sourav Ganguly, an artist masquerading as a batsman- VVS Laxman and off-course ‘GOD’ himself- Sachin Tendulkar. You have scored a hair raising ton (106) in your debut Test against the likes of Pollock, Donald, and Klusener, and still, find yourself warming the bench in the succeeding matches.
You’d be gutted, right? But, you’re not alone in feeling that disappointment. You have a leader that wants to optimize your talent rather than seeing it wither away while warming the bench. He is even ready to slot you at a position where you have never batted in your life and was obviously reluctant to.
“After that [hundred in Bloemfontein], we did not have a position for him in the middle order, so one day I told him…Viru, no one made a career by sitting on the bench. Why don’t you open? And the opening is not a skill anyone is born with. If [Matthew] Hayden and [Justin] Langer could do it, so can you. Viru told me he had never opened and batted only at 5 or 6 for Delhi. ‘What if I get out?’ I told him you can get out even in the middle order. And I batted down the order so that I could have him in my team. And then he opened in England and scored a century.” Ganguly on Sehwag in Breakfast with Champions
What followed was mayhem. Sehwag, after scoring that ton in Nottingham, never really looked back and went on to become one of the trendsetters as far as opening in Test cricket is concerned.
From smoking the Pakistanis to the tune of a million double-hundreds (Well! It feels that way) and a triple-ton to getting out on a full-toss at 195 at the MCG; from deciphering the mystery of Ajanta Mendis (201 at Galle in 2008) and hammering the likes of Steyn, Morkel and Kallis to the tune of another double hundred at Chennai and finally blocking the hell out of the ball (for a change) to save a Test for his side at Adelaide; Sehwag turned to be a once-in-a-century Test opener; one India has been searching (without success, off-course) for nearly a decade now since his retirement; a testimony to what a freak he was.
2. MS Dhoni pushing Rohit to the top of the order in ODIs
When Rohit Sharma made his debut way back in 2007, he was earmarked to become the player of the stature that he is today; and we are talking here about only white-ball cricket. Cricket pundits including the likes of Ian Chappell couldn’t stop themselves gushing about the prodigious talent that the cricketer boasted.
But, talent can only take you so far in International cricket, and Rohit learned it the hard way in the first six years at the top-level. Sharma into the limelight with a brilliant half-century against the likes of Pollock in the 2007 World Twenty20 but a plethora of inconsistency ensued in the succeeding six years of his career and the talent that had been his biggest strength until that point began to feel like a bogey on his back.
And, just when it was looking like Sharma will never unleash his precocious ability in International cricket, MS Dhoni came up with a masterstroke that not only changed Rohit’s fortune as a cricketer but also led to the union of possibly one of the great top-3 of all times in ODI cricket- Shikhar, Rohit and Virat. The setting was the 2013 Champions Trophy. With the likes of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir falling out of the scheme of things, and Murali Vijay not making the most of his opportunities, Dhoni decided to push Rohit to the opening slot alongside Shikhar Dhawan.
What followed next is needless to say: Since the 2013 Champions Trophy, no opener has scored more runs than Rohit (6603 at 58.25), no batsman has hit more sixes (208) and barring that freak Virat Kohli (7466 runs at 68.49 with 30 hundred), no one has scored more runs or more hundreds (6621 runs at 59.11 including 25 tons) than the stylish Mumbaikar. Needless to mention about the double-hundreds, I guess.
Rohit’s finest moment arrived during the recently concluded World Cup in England where the MI skipper racked up hundreds for fun- five- the most by a batsman in a single edition of the World Cup.
3. Virat Kohli unleashing Bumrah in Test cricket
Now, you may have a lot of apprehensions about Kohli- the Captain. About his team selections, his tactics, his reading of conditions and off-course his handling of the No.4 spot in ODI cricket, but there is one thing that the man should receive his due credit: Unleashing Bumrah in Test cricket.
It wasn’t a popular decision at the time. And, rightfully so. Bumrah had played just 25 odd FC games before he made his debut at Newlands against South Africa in early 2018. And, the fact that he was playing ahead of the more-established seamers in Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav was even more hard to digest for the fans. But, Kohli knew where he was coming from. He had seen that insatiable desire in Bumrah to succeed in Test cricket. And, shortly everyone was about to see it.
“The captain has a lot of confidence in you that gives you a lot of self-belief. When you bowl, you can express yourself and try whatever you want to do. Not only me, but each and every bowler is also being backed by him so much. As a bowling unit, we are very happy and have the freedom to do whatever we want,” Jasprit Bumrah said about the influence of Virat after his hattrick in Jamaica
After an indifferent start in his maiden innings, Bumrah got his strides back, taking five-wickets for fun irrespective of the continent he played in: Africa, Europe, Oceana, Caribbean,- the first Asian bowler to achieve the feat, and is currently now the leader of the pace attack, after having taken 62 wickets and a quantum jump from 85th to 3rd in all of just 12 Tests.
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