A Game of Thrones in Mumbai

The Mumbai Indians’ quest for IPL glory has led to the latest development in their camp: Sachin Tendulkar taking a ‘break’ from captaincy and Harbhajan Singh taking over the reins.

First of, there won’t be too many arguments in favor of Sachin continuing as skipper. Throughout his career, the Mumbai maestro has never mastered the art of captaincy, be it for India or the Mumbai Indians. Highlights of his captaincy includes more mis-steps than master-strokes; for instance, keeping Pollard for too late during the final of IPL-3. There is no doubt that he is a good mentor for the younger players in the squad and a good sounding board for fellow veterans; but captaining a team is something he is better off without. In that sense, relinquishing the captaincy makes sense, though I don’t understand the term ‘taking a break’. Does that mean, he will want the reins back, when he feels sufficiently rejuvenated and motivated? In that case, this move doesn’t make sense.

In contrast, Harbhajan Singh seems to be the natural successor to Tendulkar. While he may have been discarded from the Indian team for the past few months, there is no doubt that when he dons the role of captain, he brings a certain element of flair and luck to the team. In the time he has been away from the national side, he has led Mumbai Indians to a Champions League title, India Green to a shared Challenger Trophy and Punjab to the final of the domestic T20 trophy. He has put in decent performances in these games, showing that captaincy doesn’t affect his natural game (for better or worse!). He reminds me of Saurav Ganguly, a fighter who liked to lead by example and was unafraid to be expressive on the field. Perhaps, the Mumbai Indians need that extra jolt of passion from their skipper to cross the final hurdle and win the IPL for the first time.

Singh is lucky that he has a bevy of talented performers in the side, both international and domestic. While he may receive a lot of support from Tendulkar, it will be ultimately up to him to make the decisions at crunch time and keep the team unified in pursuit of a single goal. This could be the latest challenge for a person known to have a volatile temperament and it will be interesting to track his progress.

Which brings us back to the matter of Tendulkar taking a ‘break’ from captaincy; if Singh fails, does it mean Tendulkar will be back in command next time? If Harbhajan leads the team to the title, will Tendulkar accept that his days of captaincy are over? Or will Mukesh bhai and Nita bhabi have the final word in this game of thrones?

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