From Punjab’s KL Rahul to Rajasthan’s Steven Smith, hosting the Indian T20 League at the UAE has left all the captains with a new challenge. While some have thrived in the trying conditions, some have accepted defeat quite early.
Here’s rating the best captain in the Indian T20 League till date.
VIRAT KOHLI (Bangalore) [6/10]
While the Indian skipper has won almost everything in world cricket in the blue colour, his fortunes have changed drastically whenever he has donned Bangalore’s red shirt. Despite being an integral part of the Indian T20 League since its inception, Virat Kohli hasn’t won the title even once.
However, things have looked promising this time around for Bangalore as they sit third in the points table midway into the season. And Kohli’s evident change in perspective has worked wonders. Unlike previous seasons, the skipper is seen giving longer rope to Devdutt Padikkaland Navdeep Saini.
Bangalore have been lucky with a string of good performances as well, which have prevented Kohli from pressing the panic button. A hint of it was seen during their clash with Mumbai when Kohli’s rotation of bowlers almost cost his side the match. Hence, we have to wait until Bangalore’s going gets tough to find out if Kohli has actually learnt lessons from past mistakes.
ROHIT SHARMA (Mumbai) [7/10]
Taking over the leadership from Ricky Ponting in 2013, Rohit Sharma had led Mumbai to their maiden title that year and he has since won three more titles for Mumbai. Sharma has been a brilliant leader for his side whose game reading skills are often overshadowed by the brilliant squad at his disposal.
However, having a talented squad only does half your job – ask Punjab. Sharma’s in-depth knowledge of his bowlers’ strength, knowing when to use whom, is praiseworthy. With Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult already in his team, Sharma still manages to make enough space for James Pattinson to excel. This is the stuff great captains are made of.
While Pattinson’s inclusion and usage should be appreciated, Saurabh Tiwary’s inclusion ahead of Ishan Kishan should be criticized as well.
DINESH KARTHIK (Kolkata) [4/10]
Dinesh Karthik had arrived at the tournament with a heap of doubts over his captaincy. The management’s decision to bring in a World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan and persisting with Karthik to lead the side had raised eyebrows. However, Karthik has shown enough maturity to shut the outside noise and focus on the team, which has seen a steady Kolkata team this season.
Man-management has been Karthik’s biggest plus. Whether it be handing Kamlesh Nagarkoti continued starts ahead of Sandeep Warrier or persisting with Varun Chakravarthy ahead of Kuldeep Yadav, Karthik has mightily impressed with his handling of Indian talents in the squad. However, the veteran batsman has shown lack of game reading skills on numerous occasions.
It took Kolkata five matches before they moved away from opening with Sunil Narine while Andre Russell’s batting position is still in the dark. Eoin Morgan is clearly a better batsman than Karthik and the captain needs to place him higher up the order. Though Karthik should be praised for Kolkata’s narrow wins against Chennai and Punjab, his frequently low returns with the bat don’t put him under good light.
SHREYAS IYER (Delhi) [7/10]
Undoubtedly, the biggest contender to take over Indian reins from Virat Kohli, a young Shreyas Iyer is a natural. With a coach like Ricky Ponting and stalwarts like Kagiso Rabada and Ravichandran Ashwin in the squad, it is easy for a 25-year-old Iyer to be intimidated, but he has shown nerves of steel.
Iyer has been doing something, most captains in the league aren’t – backing the players to carry out their roles properly. Iyer has impressed one and all with his shrewd rotation of bowlers – more importantly, the fourth and fifth bowler – that has often cut out the task for Delhi.
However, Iyer has still to learn a great deal and at some point, he has to start leading from the front. Though Delhi’s deep batting order gets the job done on most occasions, Iyer coming up the order more frequently will only make them better.
MS DHONI (Chennai) [3/10]
Anything in excess is poisonous and MS Dhoni is learning it the hard way. If Virat Kohli is criticized for his continuous hacking and chopping of the squad and not backing his players for more games, Dhoni should be blamed for doing more of it.
Amidst the positives would be Dhoni’s trust in Sam Curran with the ball, although using the Englishman was more of a necessity for Dhoni than a tactical call. Barring that, a veteran captain like Dhoni knows how to turn a deaf ear to the media and fans and trust his past record to show him the way forward.
However, every system gets outdated sooner or later and Chennai are facing the same issue. Dhoni sticking with the same core members instead of experiments with newer combinations – especially the younger talents – has been a huge negative. It wasn’t until their eighth game of the season that Sam Curran was pushed up the order. MS Dhoni’s clouded batting position will always be a question for all.
KL RAHUL (Punjab) [2/10]
KL Rahul has seen the worst of it this season as his inexperienced captaincy skills have been exposed time and again in every match. Punjab struggling to win most of their matches is as much as their individual players’ fault as it is Rahul’s cluelessness. At this point, the player has evidently lost the dressing room as far as leadership is concerned.
Rahul’s positive has been his batting, something which hasn’t been affected by the added pressure of captaincy at all. Punjab’s close defeats week in week out has hardly bothered Rahul who leads the orange cap race by quite a margin.
But, everything else has been disastrous. Whether it be his inability to trust his players – bowlers as well as middle order – or his failure to come up with a plan on the spot to take matches home, Rahul is not captain material.
DAVID WARNER (Hyderabad) [3/10]
With UAE pitches offering very little to the Hyderabad players, David Warner has been like a fish out of water. The Australian skipper has seemed clueless for the most part of the season and barring some decent bowling displays, his team has seemingly accepted defeat early in the title race.
Warner should be commended for giving youngsters more chances, although the Australian has had very little option. Having a bowling heavy side, with some of the best spinners of the league, Warner has found the task of making his batting order click very challenging.
The thin batting order has also limited Warner from playing his naturally aggressive game. This has led the management to include both Jonny Bairstow and Kane Williamson in the squad leaving their batting strengths lop-sided. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s injury has also left Warner susceptible while defending the targets – which has been their speciality in previous seasons.
STEVEN SMITH (Rajasthan) [3/10]
Rajasthan have always been comfortable with the “also-ran” tag and captaining the side, Steven Smith has hardly been under pressure to lead the team to glory. And with the tournament getting shifted to UAE, expectations from Rajasthan and their skipper were hardly there.
Like Warner, Smith has also shown trust in the younger players and the recent successes of Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia are prime examples of that. Apart from them, Smith seems to have done a better job with Jofra Archer than England could and this has taken Rajasthan far in terms of points.
However, with lesser stars in the squad, Rajasthan’s team combination has been questionable. The underperforming middle order has remained untouched by Smith and his overreliance on Jaydev Unadkat and Robin Uthappa could do more damage than good in the longer run.
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