Kohli, Sharma in spotlight
With the sixth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) getting buried into the pages of history, it is time for a statistical post-mortem of what went...
With the sixth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) getting buried into the pages of history, it is time for a statistical post-mortem of what went right and where the wrongs were committed and by whom. Quite apparently, although a major portion of the pros and cons would be coming from the players and their corresponding performances, the men in the hot seat, the captains, quite logically, have to shoulder the responsibility or take credit depending on the eventual outcome. Everything depends on the captain and how he marshals the resources on hand and how dexterously works out a balance between the relative strengths and weaknesses on ground zero. Coming back to IPL VI, the generation gap among captains and their approach to the game was glaringly on show. If Rohit Sharma at 25 and Virat Kohli, all of 24 years, were making hay, old warhorses like Adam Gilchrist (42), Rahul Dravid (40) and Ricky Ponting (39) came a cropper. Gautam Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, both at 31, fared no better. Of course, the original Captain Courageous did take the team to the title round and Dravid also did a decent job. But they both flattered to deceive and choking is the unkindest cut in sports even when the team becomes the butt of ridicule for off-the-field happenings. If Rohit Sharma gave ample indications of having come of age as a leader then the qualities are perhaps ingrained in the young mind. At 25, he is six years younger than Mahendra Singh Dhoni but showed a remarkable maturity in crunch situations while inspiring Mumbai Indians to its maiden title and beating Dhoni at his own mind-game. It was likewise with Kohli, who led from the front, which was a noticeable high from the disastrous run in the fifth edition. However, he failed to inspire consistency and as captain he showed that he was fallible when losing to Kings XI Punjab. Comparisons are already getting drawn. Sharma is being projected by as the potential heir apparent to Captain Cool. Indeed it is true, though it may not be possible in the immediate future. A sorry spectacle has been that potential contenders are gradually fading out of the limelight. A year ago when Dhoni was facing nationwide criticism, the names of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were trumpeted as possible replacements. Sehwag's career nosedived. After the KKR debacle, it is doubtful if Gambhir can flaunt his leadership abilities anymore. As things stand, with a bright future awaiting them, Kohli and Sharma could be pitch-forked into a silent but undeclared battle to get groomed as the kings-in-waiting. Should that happen and there is a toss up between the two claimants, then Sharma will have the marginal advantage. The biggest advantage in his favour is the temperament and steely resolve he seems to possess in full measure. Sharma has been cool-headed whereas Kohli appears notorious for throwing tantrums. If his outbursts Down Under drew flak, the latest one has further dented his credentials. Although, he had a spoilt-brat image earlier on, his elevation as full-fledged captain of Bangalore did add to his reputation. But his spat with the equally aggressive (and frustrated) Gambhir during a match in Bangalore, exposes the fact that Kohli's frayed temper could be explosive, and harmful in the dressing room. Sharma has been impressive with the bat and more importantly he proved that he is a good judge of the wicket. In addition, his resolute composure will add to his own claims. Of course, the one advantage that Kohli has is that he is near certain for a spot in the playing eleven while Sharma has to work his way to cement a place of permanence. The next generation of Indian cricketers is waiting to seize the opportunity as and when it presents itself. Sridhar K Penna