Rajasthan Royals batsman Ajinkya Rahane bowled by Mumbai Indians bowler Rishi Dhawan during their Champions League Twenty20 match at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. (Mohd Zakir/ HT Photo)
It took a reluctant Harbhajan Singh, an out-of-form Ricky Pointing, and a scenario where Mumbai Indians were looking for someone to take on the leadership role while Sachin Tendulkar was nursing an injury. Thrust into the job with an assurance that the rich experience around him will take care of tactical decisions, captaincy was pretty much an accident for Rohit Sharma.
That was last year. In the end, Mumbai Indians were grateful for the manner in which the circumstances took shape to help discover a new captain, which resulted in a run to their maiden IPL title.
It did two things to Rohit. Responsibility brought to the fore the sensible batsman in him and it turned around his sagging career following a string of match-winning knocks.
As he takes charge once again, hoping to produce a similar script once again, Rohit will only know too well that key personnel at his disposal have changed. Tendulkar and Ponting have bid goodbye to all three formats. Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Karthik and Glenn Maxwell moved on, and joined other franchises. And that has left Rohit looking to fit a few remaining pieces in the jigsaw.
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One of the constants could be Mike Hussey. Changing his jersey from Chennai’s yellow to blue is unlikely to change the batting position of the seasoned player though. Coach John Wright has made it clear he would be Rohit’s opening partner, leaving the Aussie to take care of good starts. And Kiwi sensation Corey Anderson makes it easy for the skipper to pick the man who can provide the late order blast, with the presence of Kieron Pollard offering a mouth-watering prospect for the fans and causing some fear among rival bowlers.
There is no dearth of experience in the MI ranks with Tendulkar as icon and Anil Kumble as mentor teaming up with Wright. That means Rohit need not look too far in building the team.
At Tuesday’s nets, Tendulkar was fine-tuning Jalaj Saxena’s strokes, explaining how to manoeuvre the wrist, align his head and feet and transfer weight. And Anil Kumble sending down a few deliveries in the adjacent nets would also have eased some of Rohit’s anxiety.
However, it is one thing being spoilt for choice when it comes to seeking the help of former greats, while it is an entirely different challenge exerting one’s own leadership. “He is one of the most natural captains I have met,” Wright said. “He is one those players who jump into that role, I have been really impressed with him for everything he has done as captain. The best thing about leadership is to perform, and the way he has performed in the park, he has done an outstanding job. I can think back to some of the games he played last year, and I don’t think he put a foot wrong.”
How Mumbai Indians turned up this season will provide a fresh opportunity to judge Rohit’s captaincy. But the Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Pollard and Anderson will surely allow him to remain his languid self.