By B. Shrikant
Mumbai, Dec 10 (IANS): A captain is as good as his team, goes the saying in sports. But, at the same time, it is also true that a team is as good as its captain and coach -- especially in cricket as it is they who make up a major portion of the team management and thus take all crucial decisions.
So, skipper Rohit Sharma and chief coach Rahul Dravid have to shoulder a lot of blame for the Indian team facing the peril of further debacles in the build-up to the 50-over World Cup following its recent debacles in white-ball cricket in the last couple of months.
India had started the calendar year 2022 by losing three away ODIs to South Africa and are now facing a similar debacle in Bangladesh, having lost two consecutive matches to their neighbours and staring at a 3-0 humiliation. In between, India also lost to England in the semifinals of the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia.
The team has struggled in all departments of the game and there are question marks on many of the decisions taken by the team management.
Rohit's captaincy and Dravid's coaching have been static, whereas in white-ball cricket, it has got to be dynamic. That is the reason why India's batting has been timid and the bowling ineffective against strong teams such as South Africa, England, and Australia.
At the T20 World Cup, one of the major blunders by the duo was not playing Yuzvendra Chahal in the entire tournament despite the failures of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel. Though Ashwin picked some wickets (five of them came against Zimbabwe and the Netherlands), Axar could not trouble the batters much.
Agreed that Chahal had not done a great job in the Asia Cup in the UAE and the home series preceding the T20 World Cup, not using him in a single match even when Ashwin and Axar were being ripped apart by the opposition was a bit extravagant on part of the captain and chief coach.
The Indian team management also could not take a definitive decision on how to use Rishabh Pant at the T20 World Cup, having opted for Dinesh Karthik in the finisher's role. While putting their faith in veteran Karthik, Rohit and Dravid did not give a batsman of the calibre of Pant many chances. They should have considered Pant as an option in the top order, as barring Virat Kohli the others had not been as consistent. A left-handed batter in the line-up could have made a better impact.
Rohit and Dravid have also failed to find solutions for the failure of the bowling unit, like in the case of the T20 World Cup semifinal against England.
The major issue with both Rohit and Dravid, or his stop-gap replacement VVS Laxman, is that they have been too old-fashioned whereas white-ball cricket is quite dynamic with teams trying new approaches. Currently, England's aggressive style in white-ball cricket, which helped them win the 50-overs as well as T20 World Cups, has been quite successful.
Though in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup, India tried as many as 30 players, the squad in Australia was on expected lines and so was Rohit's approach on the field.
With the team proving so disappointing in recent months, demand is gaining ground about handing the T20 captaincy to Hardik Pandya, who was far more successful when given a chance. Some experts have even suggested bringing in a head coach who has played T20 cricket more than Rahul Dravid -- someone like Ashish Nehra, who has caught the eye after guiding Gujarat Titans to their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) title earlier this year.
In case Rohit and Dravid manage to survive these difficult times, they will have to find some express solutions to revive the team's fortunes by bringing in a fresh approach and giving more chances to youngsters like Shubman Gill, Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh, among others.
Rohit will also have to be more proactive in his decision-making and also work on his body language on the field. The skipper has been quite animated in the field with mounting pressure, losing control of his emotions, which has been picked by the television cameras and beamed live into the fans' drawing rooms -- those well-versed with lip-reading have had a field day interpreting the skipper's words. The skipper blaming the bowling unit after India's loss to England in the T20 World Cup semifinal has not gone down well with many fans.
The onus is now on the BCCI to either make a change in the leadership in white-ball cricket or impress upon Rohit and Dravid to bring in a fresh approach on the field and off it.
Time is running out as the ODI World Cup is now less than a year away.