Courage And Conviction: How Rohit Sharma Emerged As Strong Leader With Series Win Over England

This India Vs England Test series will be remembered for a long time. It has provided wholesome entertainment to fans so far with one more Test to go in beautiful Dharamsala. It was expected that the hosts were going to win the series. However, how India would eventually take the series was least expected. Being 0-1 down after Hyderabad, this Indian outfit bounced back strongly with key players losing form or fitness. Despite many big names missing, India were lucky to have a fit Rohit Sharma in the playing 11 as captain in four matches. He held the team together and ensured the foot was never taken off pedestal.

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Rohit was both tactical and inspirational as captain. But more than that, he was secure and courageous as leader. In the back room, one must give credit to head coach Rahul Dravid and other support staff members as well as top brass of BCCI for giving Rohit the freedome to lead his side in his own. But on the field, it was him directing the act. 

Look at the challenges he faced in this series. The challenges were very similar to what India faced on the 2020-21 tour of Australia when one after the other cricketer went down to injuries. Back then too, there was no Virat Kohli for the last 3 Tests. Here too, Kohli was out due to personal reasons, which we later found out was the birth of his second child. 

In Australia, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, R Ashwin, Hanuma Vihari, Navdeep Saini kept falling prey to injuries. And lesser-known figures in Tests such as Washinton Sundar, Mohammed Siraj, T Natarajan, Shardul Thakur rose to the occasion, taking the team out of trouble at different times. 

But there is one big difference between that Australia tour and this England Test series. In Australia, India were forced to play these second or third choices. They were helpless as that was a Covid period where calling backups from India was not so easy. You were required to serve a quarantine period and then followed plenty of Covid Tests. 

Here, in this ongoing series, India are not forced to play the playing 11s they have played. In fact, the decisions have been very tactful and based on data. Also, there is conviction in these decision makings. Rohit and Dravid ‘took the road less travelled by’ and stuck to it.

When Virat Kohli announced he was not going to take part in the first two Tests vs England, he was replaced by Rajat Patidar, a consistent run-scorer for Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy. The fact that he was also an aggressive batter helped his case. Then came KL Rahul’s injury after the first Test and the Ajit Agarkar-led panel decided to finally bring in Sarfaraz Khan, who hit two back-to-back fifties in his debut Test in Rajkot.

When KS Bharat did not shine with both bat and ball, the management did not mind swapping him with a debutant Dhruv Jurel, who was a big reason why India won the Ranchi Test. If Shreyas Iyer was not in form, he was dropped. In Ranchi, India’s middle order comprised of Rajat Patidar at 4, Sarfaraz at 5, Jurel at 6. Ravindra Jadeja batted at number 6. But in the order, Jurel was lined up before him. 

No one would have imagined, in first week of January, that in Ranchi, India’s middle order would look like this. Had a fit Rahul, Kohli had been there, they would have featured in the middle order. An in-form Iyer too would have been there. But in their absence, Rohit did not hesitate to try out youngsters. He backed them but Indian press did not name this fine example of leadership with any fancy term. 

Then there was Akash Deep. No Mohammed Shami, No Bumrah in Ranchi. India have another Test cap to a youngsters and it was yet another a tactical call and not a forced change. 

India’s youngsters thrived under Rohit’s captaincy as he let them express themselves. When Kohli took leave, Rahul got injured and Iyer fell out of form, Rohit could have played safe. He could have gone back to Cheteshwar Pujara who was in fine form in the Ranji Trophy. He could have also recalled Umesh Yadav pr Jaydev Unadkat, who have bowled beautifully in Ranji. Even Ajinkya Rahane, despite his ongoing struggled, could have been tried as he is enough experienced to play. But Rohit put his faith in the next gen of Indian cricket. The message was clear: India are looking ahead and not going back to the old set of players.

The 3-1 lead in the series could have been a 1-3 result too. Rohit could have faced the wrath of the fans and criticism from the media. But he stuck with his plan and he must be lauded for his exemplary leadership.