Captaincy: A Balancing Act | OPINION
An effective leader is invaluable to the team and its performance outcomes. (Twitter)

Despite the Indian cricket team having only one captain across all three formats, a total of six different people have led Team India in 2022 after Virat Kohli stepped down from the role in January. This has happened for the first time after Jasprit Bumrah took over the role of leading the team for the one-off Test against England in Edgbaston a few weeks ago, Team India broke a long-standing record. Before 2022, five captains had led the Indian Cricket Team in 1959.

Lately, Team India has had a lot of captaincy replacements owing to busy schedules, injuries, and fitness concerns. Virat Kohli’s exit as captain from all three formats has led to numerous skippers taking charge of the team even with Rohit Sharma’s immediate appointment as his replacement. However, frequent fitness and workload management issues forced Rohit Sharma to miss multiple series. This higher rate of captaincy replacements has only added to the atmosphere of uncertainty within the team, which has contributed significantly to some of India’s painful losses across all formats over the past few months.

Role of leadership

The role of a skipper in cricket carries enormous responsibilities. It is in no way similar to other team sports, such as football, basketball, volleyball, and others. The duties of a football captain, for example, are very much limited to the coin toss and managing the tempers of their teammates if things get heated up in the middle of a match.

When it comes to football, the manager or the head coach of a team might be the most crucial person in the job, but in the game of cricket, the captain takes the final call, making all the important decisions on the pitch and off the field.

An effective leader is invaluable to the team and its performance outcomes. They will find ways to lead by example, motivate, and inspire the team to achieve success. In general, captains are selected based upon their experience, their level of performance, and often the position they occupy in the team (primarily batters).

As mentioned above, the captain’s role in cricket increases significantly compared to other sports. The captains usually take on the role equivalent to a manager in other sports, with specific responsibility to lead the team as well as making decisions about strategy and tactics, selection, and planning while also determining the batting order, who bowls when, and setting the appropriate fielding positions. Off the field, the captain can have a large number of game-related responsibilities, such as selection, scheduling, and executing meetings, as well as non-game-related tasks such as communicating with the media, long-term strategy, and collaborating with club officials. To achieve all of these, the captain must be an effective leader who can manage all the different characters and personalities that make up the team.

IMPORTANCE OF STABILITY IN LEADERSHIP

Leadership is a fundamental aspect of sports performance, particularly within a sporting environments. Stability is one of the qualities most admired in leadership. They provide and create a stabilizing influence on others. Leadership and stability are important traits that can sometimes exist independently of each other. Some leaders have effective leadership qualities, but lack consistency in their decisions. Instability causes the breakdown of trust within a unit, but a stable leader can increase the unit’s confidence and composure when under pressure.

Stability is something we do not often think of as a quality of leadership until it is lacking. The unpredictable and inconsistent behavior of an ill-behaved leader creates unnecessary levels of stress, anxiety, and disharmony. This, in turn, affects growth, reduces productivity, impairs trust, and makes it extraordinarily difficult to focus on any conversation.

Given the current scenario, it is worth noting that having a stable captain is very important for the Indian cricket team. The position of the captain has been very unstable over the past few months, especially during the home series against South Africa, the Ireland tour, or the one-off Test against England. It is not ideal to have separate captains in every series in such a short period. This also means, that every time a new captain is appointed, the team will have to align with the style of the new captain. With the Asia Cup in August and the T20 World Cup in Australia in October 2022, India should be playing with the same set of players. Furthermore, the attention should be focused on every remaining match ahead of the World Cup.

THE CURRENT SCENARIO

The captain of the Indian cricket team has changed six times in the last seven months. But the team only got split. The Indian team kept on losing big matches. Now let’s dive into the details of these seven captains ever since Rahul Dravid became the coach.

  • VIRAT KOHLI: Left the captaincy after losing the Test series against South Africa 1-2 in January 2022. Since then, the captain of the Indian team changed with every series.
  • KL RAHUL: Captained in three ODIs against South Africa in January. The Indian team was defeated in all three matches, meaning only Rahul flopped as captain.
  • RISHABH PANT: Was named as the captain of Team India against South Africa in five T20I matches. Won 2 and lost 2.
  • HARDIK PANDYA: Named as captain for Gujarat Titans in IPL 2022 and were the eventual champions. Got the captaincy of Team India against Ireland. Won both matches and won the series.
  • JASPRIT BUMRAH: Was made the captain of the team for the rescheduled Test against England. After Rohit Sharma got Covid, Bumrah got the responsibility in such a big match, but India suffered a loss. It was completely unfair to give Bumrah the additional responsibilities as he had no prior experience of captaining even a First-class side. The ideal solution could have been to request Virat Kohli to lead.
  • ROHIT SHARMA: The regular captain of Team India in all three formats. So far, impressed a lot with his captaincy, but his injuries in recent times has only added to the problem.
  • SHIKHAR DHAWAN: In absence of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, and Jasprit Bumrah from the ODI series and KL Rahul testing positive for Covid, Shikhar Dhawan has been named as India captain. He will become the seventh captain in seven months.

With seven captains taking charge of a team in such a short period, it is entirely possible that the captaincy transition did impact the team’s self-belief and created uncertainty in the mind of the players. Besides, the frequent change in the captaincy of the Indian team did not please the fans as they expressed their views on the same through some entertaining memes on social media.

India has had a brilliant run in Tests, but the inability to win a ICC silverware, be it the Test Championship or limited overs title, remains an issue. The ICC T20 World Cup 2022 will be held in Australia, and in 2023 the 50-Over World Cup will return to India.

For the upcoming ODI series against West Indies beginning in July, a lot of senior players have reportedly asked for rest. The concept of players resting is unacceptable, according to former captain Sunil Gavaskar and opined,”If you do not take a break during the IPL, then why do you ask for a break while playing for Team India?”

Giving cricketers plenty of rest is not the answer. Teams need to have continuity and togetherness to understand each other. The Indian team must confine itself to a camp where strategies and plans are discussed and decided. This is where India had failed earlier and has, therefore, not won any ICC Trophy since 2014. Hopefully, Dravid will change that, or else we will once again ask “WHY”.

Who will succeed Kohli? This question has been doing the rounds for quite some time now. As captain, Rohit has been magnificent with the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. But, he is not a long-term solution as he is older than Kohli and also susceptible to injuries. Yet, for the immediate future, Rohit Sharma is the man.

The captaincy itself has had very smooth sailing for the past 14 years. So, just do not be too surprised or panicked given the people involved this time, if the boat shakes a bit. After all, the captain of the Indian team holds the most powerful position in cricket at large. So just strap in, and settle down for a bumpy ride. We have been through worse. And trust me, this way or that, in the end, we will come out on top.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.”- Babe Ruth (baseball)

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of cricketcountry.com)