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On top of the leaderboard

Updated on: 01 March,2024 07:30 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ian Chappell |

In the sudden shuffling of the Indian side after a prolonged period of selection stability, the leadership of Rohit Sharma is often overlooked. In his quiet but efficient way, Rohit is a very different leader from the aggressive and highly visible Ben Stokes

On top of the leaderboard

India captain Rohit Sharma (right) chats with teammate Yashasvi Jaiswal during the second day of the second Test against England in Visakhapatnam last month. Pic/AFP; (right) Mohammed Siraj

Ian ChappellDespite the series absence of star players Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami, plus very good cricketers in KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja missing Tests through injury and the resting of elite pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah, India is still a very good team.

They’ve unearthed talented players in opener Yashasvi Jaiswal and middle-order batsman Sarfaraz Khan. Shubman Gill is a skilful batsman and more responsibility on his shoulders should eventually pay dividends.

While the spin bowling has been in the capable hands of R Ashwin and Jadeja for a long time, the realisation that Kuldeep Yadav is a reliable wicket-taking option is a bonus for India.

Also Read: IND vs ENG 5th Test: Rahul misses, Bumrah back in squad, confirms BCCI

Pace bowling is a concern

One area of concern is pace bowling and the future support for the crucial trio of Bumrah, Shami and the feisty Mohammed Siraj. However debutant Akash Deep quickly answered some of those questions after some skiddy fast bowling with the new ball in the fourth contest.

In the sudden shuffling of the Indian side after a prolonged period of selection stability, the leadership of Rohit Sharma is often overlooked.

Rohit, in his quiet but efficient way is a very different leader from the aggressive and highly visible Ben Stokes. However, to capably handle the many changes to personnel and the tough loss of the first Test shows the resilience of Rohit. He also produced a masterful century when the Indian team needed it at the start of the third Test, to confirm he wasn’t a ceremonial captain.

Rohit has a pedigree of leadership success and his reputation helped him guide a fluid Indian line-up in the right direction. Any failure in Rohit’s leadership could easily have seen this Indian team falter when the going got tough.

Thanks to Rohit’s strength under fire it is now England that looks to Stokes to provide the leadership to ensure there isn’t a serious let down after two consecutive Test losses, the second of which was a flogging.

Also Read: Was Iyer's World Cup show ignored before terminating central contract?

Skillful Bumrah

There is no doubt the elite skill of Bumrah, the talent of Jaiswal and the other inexperienced players India introduced to the team is helpful. However it required the leadership guidance and the tactical nous of Rohit to ensure that a changing team retained belief in their cricket.

Rohit’s clever use of Kuldeep during the third Test absence of Ashwin was a masterstroke in turning a potential disaster to the team’s advantage. Rohit’s ability to remain unyielding and calculating after a depressing loss in the first Test has helped the Indian side bounce back against a competitive English team.

Jaiswal is outstanding

The outstanding success of Jaiswal at the top of the order was crucial to India’s new look team finding success. Jaiswal will no doubt have down periods, but he has the shots and all-round skill to be an overall success in any format. His tremendous success has been symptomatic of the evolution of the Indian team under Rohit. By meekly capitulating against spin in the second innings of their devastating loss in the third Test, England left themselves vulnerable to another trial by slow bowling in the fourth match. This became pretty obvious once talk of Bumrah being rested reached a crescendo. 

Part of the task for Stokes was convincing the batsmen - mainly Joe Root—to be more judicious if they must employ any fancy shots. Root was a mammoth and quick scorer batting traditionally and I’m not sure why he wanted to employ any premeditated and therefore risky shots.

Whether Root personally decided or Stokes prompted some introspection, the talented batsman returned to his roots to produce a telling century on an engaging first day. Root dragged England out of a perilous situation with a classic century to ensure the visitors provided a challenging first day total in Ranchi.

Captaincy didn’t suit Root but sensible batting does. Whatever the result, England has displayed their resilience under Stokes and the ability to not fold like a tent after a debilitating loss. Ranchi is shaping as yet another highly competitive Test featuring two very good Test skippers.

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