Gautam Gambhir follows close friend and Delhi team-mate Virender Sehwag, with injury concerns of his own, which may just make him sit out of the West Indies tour and deprive him of the opportunity to further state his captaincy credentials in Indian colors. This would most likely pave way for Suresh Raina to get a second shot at captaincy after a poor first stint in Zimbabwe a couple of years ago, highlighted by two defeats to Zimbabwe and failure to qualify for the tri-series final. My question is: should it be that straight forward?
It is no secret that Virat Kohli has been earmarked for captaincy for quite a while now. He has prior experience, having led the India U-19 team to World Cup glory, and has stepped in admirably for Vettori as RCB skipper in this year’s IPL. He has grown into a mature and well rounded cricketer in the last couple of years, with high praises from the people who matter. You will be hard pressed to find anybody who disagrees that he should be groomed as the future Indian captain.
Yet, by a quirk of fate, Suresh Raina is one step ahead of him. Having made his debut for India much before Kohli, he also has the advantage of having played Test matches. So, the selectors have used logic in placing Raina in proper hierarchy, ahead of Kohli in the captaincy stakes.
Personally, I wish the selectors were bold enough to make Kohli the skipper if Gambhir is ruled out of the series. Yes, that would be unfair to Raina, as he has not done anything to make his case weak; on the other hand, he has an impressive resume, himself. Paralysed by doubt and insecurity during the Chappell era, he made his way back into the Indian team through sheer determination and is one of the few batsmen to have scored centuries in all three formats of the game, and was crucial in India’s victories in the quarters and semis of the recent World Cup. When a wicket falls, he is the first fielder to rush either the bowler or fielder (whoever is closer!) with a fierce hug. He is never short of ideas in the field, involving himself in decisions of bowling changes or field placements. I suppose if Kohli was not around, he would be the unanimous choice for the much sought after position in Indian cricket.
My only grouse is that Raina is not established in either Tests or ODIs right now. After a thrilling start to his Test career, he has tapered off, losing his position to Pujara in the process. In the ODIs, he was not even in the first choice playing XI during the league stages of the World Cup, playing his first game of the tournament in the quarterfinal against Australia. (It reminds me of the way Dhoni got his shot at captaincy. With Sehwag and Yuvraj having fitness/form issues, Dhoni grabbed the opportunity to establish himself as the long term option; and India have not looked back since then.) Raina should be spending the major part of the coming season, in developing himself as a quality Test player and making himself as a permanent fixture in the ODI team as well. While Kohli may not have made his Test debut yet, no one doubts that it is just a matter of time now. This is the perfect time to assess Kohli the captain, in a ODI series against the West Indies.
In the short run, it might not matter as Dhoni isn’t going anywhere and Gambhir will take over when he is unavailable; but it will be nice to have a clearer idea of who the FIC (Future Indian Captain) might be. Suresh Raina or Virat Kohli…..what’s your choice?