India’s tour of South Africa has not started on the best of note. The team is hampered with injuries to key playing personnel. Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Shubman Gill, and Axar Patel have all been ruled out from the Test series. We discussed here Is KL Rahul Right Vice-Captaincy Choice?
These 4 players have been an integral part of India’s Test plans. They will be severely missed in the tour to South Africa. But the most notable absentee is India’s recently appointed white-ball captain and Test vice-captain, Rohit Sharma. KL Rahul has been appointed as India’s Test vice-captain in his absence.
The curious case of Rohit Sharma:
The elevation of Rohit Sharma as India’s Test captain came in the wake of his glorious returns as a Test opener. He had a coming-of-age Test series against England in England. Sharma’s leadership was never in doubt. The Test vice-captaincy was a call in the right direction. But it all came to naught when Sharma was ruled out from the series. India now had to look for an alternative option.
Who were the other contenders for the role?
Ajinkya Rahane was India’s Test vice-captain for the longest time. He also filled in as India captain whenever Virat Kohli was unavailable. But a prolonged loss of form meant Rahane was always on the radar of being dropped. It eventually cost him his vice-captaincy role. Cheteshwar Pujara, another Test specialist was a contender up until last year. But much like Rahane, his severe dip in form cost his chances too.
Weren’t the match-winners considered?
Ravichandran Ashwin who has been India’s biggest match-winner in Tests was also in the running. He has been a leader without ever being nominated as one. Ashwin’s knowledge and prowess have helped him gain the respect of the team. But age is a factor that must have worked against him.
The other natural contender was Jasprit Bumrah. He has been India’s bowling leader across formats. Bumrah is tactically shrewd too. He could have made for an ideal vice-captain. But his workload might have cost him the role. As Bumrah is someone who hardly plays all the matches. It left the team with only two contenders!
Rahul vs Pant:
It eventually boiled down to two wicketkeepers. One a specialist and another a make-shift. Rishabh Pant was India’s chief architect in twin series wins over Australia (away) and England (home). But age and a mediocre tour to England went against him. The board wanted someone senior in age and Test experience to don the role. KL Rahul was the only option left. A career-defining tour to England helped him leapfrog everyone to the role.
The emergence of Rahul:
Amidst all the hue and cry over Kohli and Rohit, Rahul has silently emerged to be the next big thing. He is undoubtedly the most valuable Indian player in the IPL. Rahul is certainly going to be hot property in the auctions. His calm demeanor has won over the ardent of critics. In the power center of Indian cricket, Rahul’s ascension comes at just the right time!