IPL happy hunting ground for India’s next captains

- April 6, 2022
| By : Patriot Bureau |

IPL fans should keep a keen eye on the captains leading seven out of the ten teams, as each has the potential to captain Team India in days to come

File Photo/Indranil Mukherjee / AFP via Getty Images

IPL 2022 has many new Indian captains leading different sides, enabling cricket fans around the world to form opinions about their leadership capabilities. Thus we have Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings), Rishabh Pant (Delhi Capitals) and Sanju Samson (Rajasthan Royals). Each skipper has a different style of leadership.

This season will surely offer a chance to scrutinise at least four more young Indian cricketers closely — Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. They may or may not deserve to be future captains of the national teams.

Only two of the ten teams in this year’s Indian Premier League have not opted for an Indian leader. Royal Challengers Bangalore were left with no other choice but to go in with veteran South African ex-skipper Faf du Plessis in the wake of former Indian skipper Virat Kohli’s decision to quit the captaincy in haste. Sunrisers Hyderabad decided to go in with New Zealand’s successful skipper Kane Williamson.

The addition of two new IPL teams this season has opened up more opportunities for players to lead sides and add captaincy to their resumes. Given that current skipper Rohit Sharma will turn 35 in April itself, he may not be able to lead Team India in all formats of the game for long. The selectors will undoubtedly be looking for a youngster to relieve some of his pressure in the near future.

For all these captains, except for Rohit, leading their side will help them showcase their leadership qualities and responsible man management.

Let’s take a look at the seven IPL teams led by Indian players…

Ravindra Jadeja (Chennai Super Kings)

At the very last minute, one of India’s most admired captains, Dhoni, handed over CSK’s captaincy to Ravindra Jadeja. The southpaw has no track record of leading any side until now. For over 13 years, Jadeja has been a constant at the highest level, be it domestic side Saurashtra or then Team India, for over 13 years, but has never been considered think-tank material at any level.

The last time he led any side was way back in 2007, when he was named captain of Saurashtra’s Under-19 side in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy. This was about a year-and-a-half before he was selected for Team India.

Now that he has disclosed that he was prepared for his new role in CSK after Dhoni and team management alerted him much in advance (not a surprise as was thought initially), Jadeja may not have much time to prove his abilities as he is already 33.

Jadeja’s all-round abilities have made him indispensible for his sides. A sharp fielder, a wicket-taking bowler and a hard-hitting lower-order batsman, the southpaw is only the third player to lead the Chennai side. Under Dhoni, CSK played nine finals and won the title four times in 2010, 2011, 2018 and 2021.

Only Mumbai has won the IPL more than Chennai.

For Jadeja, the biggest challenge will be to come out of Dhoni’s shadows. Having played most of his career under Dhoni’s leadership, Jadeja might need to approach this differently than his predecessor.

He is already facing the heat after losing the first couple of games this season. Of course, he has Dhoni to hold his hand out there in the middle, but Jadeja understands that he needs a quick turnaround after the initial hiccups to showcase his authority as a leader of the pack.

Shreyas Iyer (Kolkata Knight Riders)

Having let England’s Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik go, KKR went all out to secure Shreyas as leader for as high as Rs 12.25 crore in the recent auctions. In fact, he was the most expensive player KKR bought at the IPL auction.

Shreyas is not new to the leadership role.

On 27 April 2018, he became the youngest captain to lead the Delhi Daredevils team in IPL history at the age of 23 years and 142 days during the match against Kolkata Knight Riders, and he was also the fourth overall youngest to captain any IPL side.

He was retained as captain for IPL 2019, when he scored 463 runs, leading the Delhi franchise to their first play-offs appearance in seven years. In IPL 2020, Iyer led the side to the final but fell at the final hurdle to the Rohit-led Mumbai side. An unfortunate shoulder injury saw Shreyas miss the first phase of the 2021 season. With compatriot Rishabh Pant taking over the role of captain for the Delhi Capitals, Shreyas returned in the latter stages but was not retained ahead of the 2022 mega auction.

Shreyas has captained an IPL team in 44 matches. He has won 23 matches and lost 19 matches, while two matches ended in ties, resulting in a Super Over finish which ended in the favour of DC.

Shreyas Iyer has scored 1,301 runs, including eight 50s, in 44 matches as captain. KKR will be aiming for their third IPL title, having won it in 2012 and 2014 earlier.

Rishabh Pant (Delhi Capitals)

There was a time, a year-and-a-half ago, when Rishabh Pant fell out of favour.

The reasons were simple: “He was inconsistent and not ready to cut down on his wild shots”. The 23-year-old was then dropped from the ODI squad and was not the first-choice wicket-keeper in home Tests. Then the miracle happened as he was named captain of the Delhi Capitals following a serious shoulder injury to regular leader Shreyas Iyer.

Since then, Pant has not looked back and here he is.

Such has been Pant’s impact that the 24-year-old has been projected as India’s future leader, with experts picking him as one of the most probable candidates to step into Virat Kohli’s shoes in the longer format.

And he already has two-time World Cup-winning Australian skipper Ricky Ponting as an admirer. Ponting strongly feels that the flamboyant Pant will be a successful India captain if he is handed the responsibility in the future.

KL Rahul (Lucknow Super Giants)

Although Rahul’s captaincy records don’t make for a good read, his batting average of 59 is the best by a captain in the IPL.

The right-handed batsman from Karnataka is the most expensive player in this year’s edition after Lucknow Super Giants picked him for Rs 17 crore before the mega auctions. This is because Rahul has been one of the most consistent batters in the IPL for the last four seasons. Now that he is leading a new entrant, his immediate challenge would be to get his team to the play-offs before everyone else.

The 29-year-old has been the leading run-scorer ever since he joined the Punjab Kings. However, he had a forgettable captaincy stint with his previous franchise, winning 12 and losing 15 out of a total of 29 games.

And with a change in his side, Rahul will be looking for a change in fate as well.

Sanju Samson (Rajasthan Royals)

Despite a dismal outing last season, the Royals decided to show their faith in Sanju.

The 27-year-old was retained by the Royals for Rs 14 crore ahead of the IPL 2022 auctions and they also retained him as the leader of the pack following the release of Australian former skipper Steve Smith ahead of the 2021 auctions.

Although he did not have a great record as captain in 2021, Sanju started off the new season with two wins in two matches, by leading from the front.

In fact, he was appointed as the captain of Kerala for the 2015-16 Ranji Trophy season at the age of just 20. He is the youngest Kerala player to captain the state in the Ranji Trophy. The presence of three potential wicket-keepers in Team India is being cited as one of the reasons for Sanju’s omission. There is Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan and in case there is any kind of emergency, KL Rahul is there to fit in as the backup keeper.

The first player to score a century on his captaincy debut, Sanju now needs to be consistent with the bat in order to attract the attention of Indian selectors.

Hardik Pandya (Gujarat Titans)

There are many new captains who are leading IPL teams this year. But Hardik Pandya surprised all when he was picked up as the captain by Gujarat Titans’ management.

A team that will make its IPL debut this season has decided to go with a new skipper “who has never led a team before”.

Hardik has always played for the Mumbai Indians since the time he started playing in the IPL in 2015. Also, his form is under the scanner due to recurring injuries. Hardik understands how crucial his bowling is for his survival at the highest level.

That’s why the Titans’ decision to name him captain came as a surprise. Maybe the Ahmedabad-based franchise put money on him because “he is a Gujarati and because of his star appeal”.

So far, he has not let his side down. Under Hardik’s leadership, the Titans have pulled off victories in their first two outings.

Mayank Agarwal (Punjab Kings)

Mayank has been an integral part of the Punjab Kings since 2018. He served as the squad’s captain briefly when former captain KL Rahul dropped out of the IPL 2021 due to appendicitis surgery.

And what a game it was for Mayank personally. On 2 May 2021, Mayank top scored with a captain’s knock of 99 off just 58 balls. This is another thing that all his efforts went in vain as his team lost that particular game.

The team may have lost, but the Punjab’s management reposed faith in him. The 31-year-old Karnataka batter has played 100 games and scored 2,131 runs in the IPL. The right-handed batsman shot into the limelight when he scored his maiden triple century (304 not out) against Maharashtra in 2017 in a Ranji tie. During the same season, he was the leading run-scorer with 1,160 runs in first-class cricket.