Rohit Gets A+ & Virat Scores D: Rating the Captains of IPL 2019
Captaincy can have a telling impact on a cricket match, in T20s more than in any other format. In a format where the game is evolving every single delivery, captains need to be several steps ahead of the game; they need to be aware of match-ups not only of the batsmen currently occupying the crease, but also keep an eye on the players yet to bat, and be aware of how much time there is left in the innings so they can make the most of the resources available.
Miscalculation could be mean under-bowling a particular bowler, or using a bowler at a wrong time. One small error, one missed trick, could see the pendulum swing in favour of the opposition.
So how did the captains fare in the recently-concluded season of the Indian Premier League? I rate them below.
- Rating: A+
- Won: 10, Lost: 5, Win%: 66.7
Championship winning captain – what’s there to say about Rohit Sharma? The MI captain was generally calm and decisive on the field, and got his selections right on most occasions. Even in the crucial last over of the final, Rohit stayed calm, and worked with the bowler – Lasith Malinga – to work out a way to win the match.
The 32-year old is an excellent reader of the game – particularly in the T20 format – and the four IPL titles under his belt are testimony to his nous.
- Rating: A
- Won: 10, Lost: 5, Win %: 66.7
The 2019 IPL was yet another outstanding season for MS Dhoni. After winning the IPL title with the ‘dad’s army’ in 2018, Dhoni skippered the Chennai Super Kings to the final twelve months later – with almost the same team. The highlights of his leadership were the use of Deepak Chahar, the use of his three spinners – particularly the use of Harbhajan Singh – and the backing of Shane Watson (who had a largely poor tournament until the playoffs).
MS Dhoni is the gold standard for temperament. This season though, ‘Captain Cool’ lost his temper on a few occasions; there was the incident of him charging to the middle to check on a controversial umpiring call, and then there were a few instances when he expressed his frustration (hitherto unseen) at mistakes by his teammates.
- Rating: B+
- Won: 10, Lost: 6, Win%: 62.5
Under Shreyas Iyer, the Delhi Capitals made the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
How much of Shreyas’ captaincy was instinctive and to what extent his decision-making was assisted by coach Ricky Ponting from the sidelines one will never know. But Shreyas certainly made a very good impression as the Delhi Capitals’ captain; he was composed and appeared in control of proceedings on the field. What was impressive also was that he always sported a smile on his face – irrespective of the result – and gave honest answers in the post-match chat.
Shreyas has definitely grown as a captain in the last couple of years. His use of words, and his backing of the young players in the team gave an insight into the man-management aspect of leadership.
- Rating: A
- Won: 3, Lost: 1, No Result: 1, Win%: 60.0
Steve Smith, the former Australia captain, was installed as Rajasthan Royals captain midway through the season. He revived the Royals’ poor campaign by leading them to three wins in five matches. Smith led from the front too; he scored half-centuries in his first two matches in-charge of the team, and then contributed a crucial 22 in the win against SRH.
- Rating: B+
- Won: 6, Lost: 8, Win%: 42.9
Ravichandran Ashwin had a lot to deal with right through the season. He was under the spotlight from the moment he ran out Jos Buttler at the non-striker’s end in his team’s opening match. He handled that episode very well, offering his perspective and justification to the perceived ‘unfair dismissal’, and fought off the backlash and the criticism he received for it. Then, despite not always having his first-choice players available for selection – courtesy the several injuries to his teammates – Ashwin still marshalled his resources well and helped his team compete. Ashwin’s post-match chats were refreshing to watch; he almost always provided perspective and honest assessments.
The one area Ashwin needs to work on is to ensure his team is able to maintain momentum through the season. For the second season in a row, Kings XI Punjab begun the season with a bang, only to fall sideways in the latter part of the season. In 2018, KXIP couldn’t make the playoffs after winning five of their first six matches. This season, they won four of their first six matches, but could only manage two wins in their remaining eight matches, to eventually finish sixth in the table.
- Rating: B
- Won: 4, Lost: 5, Win%: 44.4
Stats might not agree, but Kane Williamson did not have a bad season as captain. There were the odd blemishes in tactics – one of which ended his team’s journey at the Eliminator; with the match in the balance, he handed the ball to Basil Thampi, when popular opinion was that he should have bowled Khaleel Ahmed. Thampi conceded 22 runs in that crucial 18th over, and the match slipped away.
The Kiwi, who was nursing an injured shoulder and was in and out of the team himself, could have done better with a few selections too – particularly after David Warner and Jonny Bairstow parted ways with the team.
- Rating: D
- Won: 2, Lost: 7, Win%: 22.2
Ajinkya Rahane had two stints as captain; he was named captain at the start of the season, was sacked midway, and reinstated at the backend when Steve Smith parted ways with the team. Rahane accepting captaincy the second time round was completely surprising; why he did that is a separate discussion altogether.
After losing their season opener against Kings XI Punjab (the shocking collapse that followed Jos Buttler’s controversial run out), the Rajasthan Royals needed a captain who could talk tough and make the players aware of their responsibilities. One isn’t sure, given Rahane’s genteel exterior, if talking tough is in his persona, if stern words are his way to get the message across.
Rahane got his selections wrong; in the nine matches he was captain, the Royals fielded as many as 21 different players! Rahane didn’t get the best out of his players, and was also found wanting in setting fields – particularly in the death overs.
- Rating: B
- Won: 2, Lost: 4, Win%: 33.3
IPL 2019 was Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s initiation to captaincy in the T20 format. While his captaincy record indicates he lost 4 of the six matches he led Sunrisers Hyderabad in, a close look at those matches will reveal that three of those losses were by very small margins: SRH’s opponents got over the line with one ball to spare on two occasions and with two balls to spare on one other occasion.
With more games as captain, Bhuvneshwar will understand leadership better and make the right calls more often.
- Rating: D
- Won: 5, Lost: 8, Win%: 35.7
Virat Kohli as India captain and Virat Kohli as RCB captain are as different as chalk and cheese. In the national team set-up, Kohli has the best players playing for him and has the best support staff available to assist him. However, in the RCB line-up, he has to make do with the resources made available to him and doesn’t have the same support staff he works with in the India set-up.
Kohli failed to distinguish the difference between the India set-up and the RCB environment; he needed to tweak his style of captaincy to cater to the needs of the RCB dressing room, which he clearly failed to do. Kohli sets high standards and wants to win matches all the time; but an angry and pumped-up Virat Kohli, an animated Virat Kohli, a frustrated Virat Kohli, didn’t help RCB’s cause one bit.
He contradicted himself on several occasions; he did things he said he wouldn’t do, he didn’t repeat things which he said was a conscious decision, and changed things which had previously worked for the team.
Digest this: Virat Kohli has been RCB’s regular captain since the second half of the 2012 season; in seven full seasons of being captain, Kohli has led RCB to one final – in 2016, and his team has finished bottom of the table on two occasions. In comparison, Rohit Sharma took over Mumbai Indians’ captaincy in the second-half of the 2013 season; he led MI to the title in that very first season, and has added three more titles to his CV in the following years!
- Rating: D
- Won: 6, Lost: 8, Win: 42.9
Karthik, despite having been on the circuit for nearly 17 years, continues to be a bundle of energy; he wants to be in the thick of things all the time, and wants to provide constant inputs to the bowlers from his vantage position as wicket-keeper. While his methods might have worked and may have been successful in some environments, it certainly didn’t work for the Kolkata Knight Riders this season.
2019 was a disappointing season for the Kolkata Knight Riders; they didn’t have a strong enough squad, they were stubborn with their selections – backing players out of form, backed a misfiring strategy and didn’t maximise the resources they had. The discord within the camp didn’t help matters too. For all of this, the buck stops at the captain’s doorstep.