“Captaincy,” the late Richie Benaud had famously mentioned, “is 90 p.c luck and 10 p.c talent… however don’t attempt it with out that 10 per cent.” Sadly, what was as soon as the undebated reality has failed the check of time. Cricket’s speedy corporatisation and the overwhelming affect of franchise-based T20 leagues on the sport’s ecosystem has compelled a rewrite. “Captaincy,” now could be, “90 p.c marketability and 10 p.c luck … and you may attempt it even with out 10 p.c of the talent.”
As soon as once more, it’s the Indian Premier League which is the flag-bearer of this vital change that cricket might have performed with out. Each organically, and worryingly, this IPL pattern has been mainstreamed, it has infiltrated the nationwide workforce too.
Within the week forward, India will begin a full worldwide sequence, 3 ODIs towards South Africa, underneath KL Rahul, who earlier than boarding the flight for this ongoing tour had led solely in a single first-class sport. At Johannesburg through the second Check, Rahul, solely the second time in his life, was in command of males in cricketing whites. With captain Virat Kohli reporting a dodgy again on match morning, India’s reins have been within the unfamiliar palms of the newly-promoted vice-captain. It will be unfair responsible the younger stand-in for the loss however there have been whispers about India’s lack of depth and concepts when South Africa’s skipper Dean Elgar shielded all the things the Indian bowlers threw at him.
Rahul is a top-quality product of the Indian cricket system that appreciated and acknowledged his batting expertise however didn’t see him as a pacesetter. He has been a Karnataka workforce common, an u19 India World Cupper, a India A outdated hand, however no selector or coaches he has performed underneath noticed shades of Brearely in him. In case that they had, Rahul, by now, could be used to sporting the captain’s armband.
Lastly, it was the perpetually struggling Punjab Kings, the IPL facet that has seen 10 captains and 9 coaches in 14 seasons, that noticed a pacesetter in him. It didn’t come as a shock. Franchise sides aren’t recognized to take a seat with the Artwork of Captaincy e book whereas head-hunting for captains. The workforce house owners often check with the method of deciding their subsequent captain as a search to search out the ‘face of the workforce’. It’s their well mannered manner of conveying that in T20 cricket the brain-bank might nicely be housed within the dugout. You may all the time rent a bench stuffed with former captains and unburden the captain by out-sourcing techniques and workforce composition.
Marketability occurs to be the essential issue for IPL groups once they finalise their massive ticket buys. So Rahul’s previous captaincy data weren’t factored when Punjab Kings sat to determine the chief of their pack. He was a Group India common, an all-format batsman, had pan-India fan-following and an intimidating social media presence. He ticked all of the obligatory bins and some extra to be an IPL captain. He was additionally a part of the movie circuit. Rahul was, what the advertising and marketing fits like to say, a youth icon.
So was his elevation to a place of duty within the Indian workforce due to the outcomes he gave with Punjab Kings? That may’t be. In his two-year stint with the Punjab franchise, Rahul didn’t fairly rework his workforce. His workforce received simply 40 per cent of the video games and completed sixth within the 8 workforce competitors throughout Rahul’s reign in 2020 and 2021.
These two forgettable seasons as captain of the underperforming Punjab Kings didn’t see a fall in Rahul’s inventory. As soon as it was recognized that the younger cricketer with a number of high-profile manufacturers underneath his belt was prepared to change groups for the IPL 2022 season that had 10 groups and two new deep-pocket house owners, the market was buzzing. Will he go to Lucknow or Ahmedabad? Each franchises have been prepared with a cheque e book in a single hand and pen within the different.
That was till reviews emerged that Ahmedabad had determined to signal Mumbai Indians’s non-retained star Hardik Pandya as their captain. The Benaud rewrite was proving to be so true. Hardik and Rahul, who as soon as infamously sat on the identical sofa for a preferred tv present, have lots in frequent. Undoubtedly gifted, they’ve expertise to be among the many greatest on the earth. They’re confirmed game-changers blessed with an enormous match temperament.
Nevertheless, Hardik, like Rahul, too has by no means been captaincy materials. He isn’t even the first-choice captain in his household. When Hardik was the all-format India star, with a Check hundred and a world popularity of being an enforcer with each bat and ball in white-ball cricket, it was his brother Krunal who led Baroda. In his lengthy stint with Mumbai Indians, Hardik was by no means projected as a captain-in-waiting.
These just about non-existent management credentials of the likes of Rahul and Hardik haven’t are available the best way of IPL workforce house owners taking punts on them. However that’s been the cred on which enterprise of the IPL works. It’s a league with no relegation, mounted wage caps and assured exponential rise within the workforce’s annual tv income earnings. Within the IPL economics, having a sellable star within the tent is non-negotiable. For those who win it’s good however dropping too isn’t a swim-or-sink calamity. It is a league the place Virat Kohli can go and not using a title for 8 years even with AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle by his facet. RCB all the time had stars who might replenish Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore and corporates queuing as much as be related to their iconic gamers. The trophy cupboard was empty however the coffers weren’t.
Fortunately, it’s not the identical in Indian cricket but. And that’s the explanation Rahul’s climb up the hierarchy as India’s official No.2 in all three codecs with out even a murmur of protest from the followers or pundits, is disconcerting. So blended up are the minds that observe cricket’s hectic calendar and so blinding is the IPL glow that cricket’s gate-keeper forgot to boost the crimson flag.
With the 2 captains – Rohit Sharma greater than Virat Kohli – getting old and vulnerable to accidents, the vice-captain might discover himself within the scorching seat in essential video games. It might be an important sport within the WTC, World T20 or World Cup. Does Rahul have it in him to guide India? The jury is out and is trying across the room cluelessly. There’s no knowledge to reply that query emphatically. India has nicely and really taken a leap of religion with Rahul.
To this point in South Africa, he hasn’t come out shining as a pacesetter. He did excel as a batsman within the first Check, however that was by no means doubtful. Within the second Check he didn’t present spark as a skipper and within the third, the stump microphone caught him saying one thing completely incongruous. With Kohli expressing his displeasure in regards to the host broadcaster’s alleged bias towards the visiting workforce, Rahul, with one inscrutable comment, escalated the problem to the very best doable degree. “Entire nation is taking part in towards 11 guys,” he’s heard saying. The entire nation?
In the meantime, South Africa, a nation the place cricket isn’t even the preferred sport, was in reality busy conserving the virus in examine and following the embezzlement updates of a preferred former president.
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Nationwide Sports activities Editor