With Virat Kohli receiving a much-deserved break, Rohit Sharma set benchmark to become India’s 24th ODI captain.
When Rohit Sharma walks out to lead the Indian team in the absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli against Sri Lanka, he will become the 24th Indian, and seventh from Mumbai, to ascend to the role of India’s ODI captain.
Sourav Ganguly had once quipped that being the Indian cricket team’s captain was the single toughest job in world sport, with the pressure of expectations from a billion fans testing the guts of even the most resilient.
Ajit Wadekar was India’s first ever ODI captain, leading the side against England at Headingley during their 1974 tour. Despite Wadekar’s fighting half-ton, India lost the game.
In fact, it wasn’t until England’s tour of India in 1980-81, that the side tasted their first series victory in the shorter format. Srinivas Venkatraghavan, Bishen Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskarand Kapil Dev were all tried, but the selectors persisted with the latter-most for the third World Cup in 1983, which against all odds, was won by the Indian team.
After the 1992 World Cup, Indian cricket was in the hands of two captivating cricketers: Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar. While Azhar led India for three consecutive World Cups until 1999, his tenure was peppered with short stints of captaincy for Tendulkar, who had taken the world by storm with his batting exploits, but couldn’t match the same efforts as captain, ending with a win percentage of just above 35. Before the arrival of MS Dhoni, Azharuddin held the record for captaining India for the most number of games.
Before match-fixing scandal, Indian cricket put their money on the firebrand captaincy of Sourav Ganguly, who responded and how, first claiming the NatWest Trophy in 2002 that made a whole nation believe in the team.
The lowest point came when the side were embarrassingly knocked out of the 2007 World Cup in the group stages, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the exit of Chappell and the ascension of MS Dhoni as ODI captain changed cricket in the country forever.
By the time Dhoni stepped down in January 2017, India had won the World Cup and the Champions Trophy, apart from several memorable wins in the 50-over format. His reign was interspersed with irregular stints among Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane, but it was Virat Kohli who was primed for the future role, and stuck to it seamlessly.
Under Kohli, the Indian team’s juggernaut has been speeding along, but a well-needed rest for the Delhi batsman has given a long-awaited opportunity to Rohit Sharma to show his captaincy mettle on the international stage.
Here’s the complete list (with statistics) of India’s ODI captains over the years: