Update, August 13, 2017: Rohit Sharma has just been named as the Indian vice-captain for the upcoming ODI and T20I series against Sri Lanka, bringing an end to the questions and doubts all of us had for a considerable period since MS Dhoni relinquished captaincy.
For long, this question had been asked: Who’s the vice-captain of the Indian Cricket Team? Or, who is the captain’s deputy in the Indian ODI and T20 team? By long, I mean the six months since MS Dhoni relinquished ODI and T20I captaincy and Virat Kohli became the captain for all three formats. And despite giving up limited-overs captaincy, unlike what usually happens, Dhoni had remained the new captain’s right-hand man on the field. In fact, at times, Dhoni the non-captain had assumed a far greater role than the captain himself would. And the incumbent was happy having the former leader guiding him and making decisions for him, too.
In the very first one-dayer India played after he stepped down, against England at the MCA Stadium in Pune, Dhoni forgot that he was not the captain anymore and challenged the umpire’s not out decision on his own, literally and without consulting Kohli. Imagine how the new captain will have felt. Thankfully, the person was Dhoni and not anyone inferior to Kohli, either in status in the team or age-wise.
But with the batsman-wicketkeeper having stepped down only in January 2017, you cannot make him the vice captain, whose job is to assist the captain while he is on the field (a role which is being played perfectly by the former captain) and assume the captain’s role when he is off the field.
The candidates: Rahane, Rohit and Ashwin
Just like the captain, the vice-captain is someone who features regularly in the team, has been around for some time and fits the bill for captaincy as well.
The likes of Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane, who have been around for long and fall in the bracket of senior pros, have been the candidates for vice-captaincy.
The vice captain of Indian Test cricket team, Rahane is currently not part of India’s first-choice one-day XI. The Mumbai batsman has captained India before in ODI and T20I series in 2015, but while the senior to senior pros were rested.
Regular opener Rohit Sharma was out of the side for six months due to a right quadriceps injury and returned only for India’s ICC Champions Trophy 2017 campaign. Rohit is temperamentally poor but having said so, the Mumbai Indians’ skipper is the most successful IPL captain with three titles to his name. And as was expected, his appointment was only a matter of time. Then, following his being made the vice-captain, Rohit will now lead India in the three ODIs and T20Is against Sri Lanka, with Virat Kohli being given his well-deserved rest!
Ravichandran Ashwin has a good cricketing brain and is an articulate person. However, what has worked against Ashwin is his poor bowling form in the ODIs and T20Is of late and he has a fight on his hands to make himself a certainty in the Indian squad for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are currently India’s two specialist spinners in the limited-overs formats.
The national selectors will have looked at Rohit as an option, particularly with the Men in Blue scheduled to play a lot of limited-overs cricket. And his appointment, you have to say, is an appropriate one and possibly will lend more stability to the team in the near future and long-term. Like for the ODIs and T20Is against the Lankan Lions, Rohit can lead India in One-Day Internationals and T20 Internationals in Kohli’s absence.