India Unwittingly Building a Different Kind of Bench Strength


A lot has been said about India’s enviable bench strength, how they can field three strong teams across formats at the same time. They did so last year in July-August when their Test squad was on UK tour while a white-ball squad toured Sri Lanka at the same time.

Parallelly, it seems that the Indian team is unwittingly building a different kind of bench strength. We are into the 7th month of 2022 and already, India have been led by seven different captains across formats.

Also Read: U-19 WC Star Vicky Ostwal Dreams of Playing Test Cricket

They’ve had four different skippers in Tests (Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah), three in ODIs (Rahul, Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan) and three in T20Is as well (Rohit, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya).

Long gone are the days when Virat Kohli had the reins of all three formats. Since November 2021, the star batter first quit T20I captaincy before India selectors decided to replace him as skipper in the ODI set up as well. In January, Kohli then stepped down as India Test captain following the conclusion of the South Africa tour.

In an ideal scenario, Rohit would have been leading them across formats, regularly. However, a combination of different factors including injuries, packed schedule and workload management has rendered it impossible.

Consequently,  the likes of Kohli, Rahul, Rohit, Rishabh, Hardik, Bumrah and now Dhawan have led/will be leading India at various points in 2022.

At this rate, it seems India will end up with 12 different captains by the end of this year.

Let’s have a look at who led when, in which format and why

Virat Kohli – vs South Africa in 3rd Test at Cape Town

With the burden of white-ball captaincy taken away, Kohli continued to lead India in Test cricket. He captained in two of the three Tests against the Proteas during the 2021-22 tour, missing the 2nd match due to a back issue. He though quit once the series concluded as India lost the series 1-2.

KL Rahul – 3 ODIs vs South Africa

With Rohit unfit, KL Rahul led India during the three-match ODI series against South Africa. India suffered a 0-3 series sweep.

Rohit – Sri Lanka T20Is and Tests at home

Having regained full fitness, Rohit led India to a clean sweep of Sri Lanka in T20Is (3-0) and Tests (2-0) in February-March.

Also Read: A Series to Remember for Newbies, a Hard-hitting Lesson for the Giants

Rishabh Pant – 5 T20Is vs South Africa at home

With Rohit again injured, Rahul was named captain for the five T20Is against South Africa in June. Unfortunately, Rahul picked up an injury on the series eve meaning the captaincy went to Rishabh. The series ended in a 2-2 draw with the final match producing no result.

Hardik Pandya – 2 T20Is in Ireland

Rohit and Rishabh were part of India’s Test squad for the rescheduled fifth match against England to be played at Edgbaston. Hence, this time, the chance to lead the side went to allrounder Pandya who had just led IPL debutant Gujarat Titans to a title win. India won the series 2-0.

Jasprit Bumrah – Birmingham Test vs England

Days before the Test was to start, Rohit tested positive for covid-19. The team management waited till the match eve in hopes that their senior cricketer would recover. However, it wasn’t to be. Few suggested that Kohli should be handed the reins since it was him who had led in the first four Tests of the series last year. Ultimately, Bumrah became the first fast bowler since Kapil Dev to lead India in a Test. The tourists though lost the match by seven wickets.

Shikhar Dhawan – 3 ODIs in West Indies 

Unless there’s a last-minute injury concern (fingers-crossed), Dhawan would become the seventh different player to lead an Indian men’s cricket team this year when they take on West Indies in a three-match ODI series starting Friday. Rohit, Rishabh Pant, Pandya, Kohli among other senior players have been rested for the one-dayers and Rahul is still working on his fitness. This will be the second time that Dhawan will be leading India full-time.

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