All hell broke loose when then coach Greg Chappell suggested captain Sourav Ganguly drop himself from the playing XI a few years ago. It sounded too radical and even offensive to many, even though the India skipper was struggling with his batting form.
Seven years down the line, the idea doesn't appear as shocking, perhaps it was just a little ahead of time in 2005.
This IPL appears to be reshaping the traditional notions of a captain. It appears to have questioned and redefined the captain's almost absolute right to walk into the playing XI, irrespective of his form, what with several captains either dropping themselves voluntarily or reportedly being forced to rest.
Quite surprisingly, there has been no hue and cry over these decisions.
“There's fierce competition for every berth in the side and not even my place is secure,” said Daniel Vettori, the RCB captain, at the start of the tournament, giving a peek into the future. Not many, though, would have taken it seriously then. The Kiwi, to his credit, has walked the talk, dropping himself quite a few times to allow the more effective Muttiah Muralitharan to play.
“He must be doing it keeping in mind the opposition and the conditions. It makes good sense to play Murali if there are more left-handers in the opposition camp,” said Sanjeev Sharma, a former India pacer. Whatever the reason, how often does one hear of a captain making way for anyone else? Kumar Sangakkara, the Deccan Chargers skipper, too dropped himself while struggling with form, to give his team a better chance to win against MI. Sourav Ganguly, too, rested himself for a game, but it wasn't of much relevance as PWI were already out of the race.
So, is the IPL raising the professionalism bar a notch higher? “It's a very good trend. There's after all so much money and prestige at stake, and hence the players most likely to win you a particular game should make the playing XI,” said Maninder Singh, former India spinner.
He doesn't agree that it could undermine the captain's authority. “On the contrary, I think it will earn him more respect from his team. By resting himself, he's sending out a clear message that anyone could be dropped.”
Kings XI skipper and coach Adam Gilchrist, who’s sitting out because of an injury, gave a thumbs up to the trend. “Even if I am available, it's not sure I will play as the boys are doing great.”