IPL 2022 is not quite the same beast as previous years. Apart from the mathematics of 10 teams instead of 8, you also see how the big guns of franchise cricket in India, namely Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are not on the toppers’ list, which is currently being held by the new teams. As the fortunes of these two sides given that they were always on top earlier also reflects on the predicament of their big stars. One such is Rohit Sharma.

The other, while not from either team, nor from any other that has won the IPL crown ever, makes it into this conversation as Sharma’s predecessor on the Big Chair captaining Team India. None other than Virat Kohli.

The present and past captains are now beginning to show signs of wear and tear, physically and mentally, as IPL 2022 progresses. Kohli smile of sheer dismay after a first-ball duck against Lucknow Super Giants said a lot. He did, as he always does, field ferociously through Royal Challngers Bangalore’s (RCB) win, it is the batter who has begun to worry.

Same goes for India and MI skipper Sharma.

It is not every day that you see Sharma ranked 36 in any table on cricket. But that is where the MI top man finds himself in IPL 2022. A total of 114 runs, top score of 41, a poor average of 19.00 and a strike rate of 129.54. Surely this can’t be the same Rohit Sharma? But it is.

Kohli is two notches above, with 119 runs, but from one inning more. His average is 19.83 with 48 as top score, the runs coming at a strike rate of 123.95.

Between these two is Sharma’s teammate, young Dewald Brevis. He has 117 runs, with 49 as top score. But he averages nearly and over 10 runs more than the other two. His strike rate, incidentally, is 172.05.

We are not comparing Brevis with Sharma or Kohli. That day may soon come, but not yet.

What we are doing is to give you an idea as to how these two seasoned veterans are doing in a game they have mastered over the years.

So what is amiss? Is it age, fatigue, the burden of responsibility, or the disillusionment of losing it? Could be all of the above, or could be none. May just be bad form, or luck.

Irrespective of the conjecture, the figures are enough to show that they are both struggling. At least Kohli no longer has to handle too much else, but Kohli being him, will be in the thick if every plan or strategy.

Sharma has no such luxury. He has it all to do, especially as MI seem determined to stay at rock bottom.

But many of the stresses Sharma has are also shared by the likes of KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Mayank Agarwal, but they seem to be doing fine, some even flourishing. Even stand-in skippers like Rashid Khan.

Plus, Sharma has spent way more time at these posts. So that can’t be it.

According to some former cricketers, Kohli is “overcooked” and needs a break. Could be. But the enthusiasm he shows on the field, or even when he’s batting, shows. So, not necessarily.

Sharma has more worries. His responsibilities do not end with the IPL. He has to look at how the Indian team will be created, and will perform in many series to follow. So his battle is stiffer.

Not fun to see top players in bad places, but that’s the nature of the beast. Bad times will come. Guess they’ll just have to grit their teeth and ride through.

(This article was first published on india.com)