By Priya Nagi: As India prepare for their first assignment in the new World Test Championship, questions arise regarding the future of their Test captain, Rohit Sharma. With the two-year cycle culminating in the final at Lord's in 2025, Sharma, who will be 38 by then, faces a critical juncture in his Test career.
It is imperative to discuss his plans for prolonging his Test career, especially considering his responsibilities as an all-format captain and opener.
Rohit's Test career has experienced its fair share of ups and downs due to selection issues, form concerns, and recent fitness setbacks. As a result, the selectors must assess whether he should continue playing all formats or concentrate on Tests and ODIs, potentially extending his career while grooming successors for the captaincy and opening position.
Despite India's defeat in the WTC 2023 final against Australia, Rohit retained his captaincy for the upcoming two-test series against the West Indies. Speculations suggesting Rohit's captaincy was secure unless he voluntarily stepped down hinted at the selectors' avoidance of addressing the topic of succession. This trend of avoiding tough decisions during times of intense criticism has been observed within the BCCI over the years.
When Virat Kohli unexpectedly relinquished the Test captaincy, Rohit Sharma was handed the responsibility over the proven Ajinkya Rahane, who led India to a historic win at the Gabba. Since assuming the Test captaincy in 2022, Rohit has played 10 Tests, missing three due to various reasons. In his 11 completed innings across seven Tests, he has scored 390 runs at an average of 35.45, with a single century and no other score above 50.
Considering Rohit's age and uncertainties surrounding his physical durability, the BCCI should have started planning for the future as the new WTC cycle begins. However, once again, the board failed to address this critical issue.
INDIA'S OPTIONS FOR FUTURE
Looking ahead, India's options for future Test captaincy are not crystal clear. Rishabh Pant, before his car accident last December, would have been a strong contender. Shubman Gill shows promise but has yet to face the pressures of leading the team on tours. Jasprit Bumrah, who captained India in a one-off Test in 2022, has expressed a desire for captaincy, but his recent back surgery raises concerns about his ability to handle the workload across all formats.
India urgently need to identify a young deputy who can grow into a long-term captain. However, for the West Indies tour, the BCCI made another misstep by appointing Ajinkya Rahane, a 35-year-old, as the vice-captain, further neglecting the importance of forward-thinking.
The question of longevity looms over the Indian team. What happens if they suddenly find themselves without Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane in Test cricket? Most of India's first Test XI will surpass the age of 35 by the time the WTC Final arrives in 2025.
As India embark on their new World Test Championship journey, it is crucial for the BCCI to address the leadership conundrum and prioritise succession planning. Identifying capable successors and grooming them for future roles will ensure a seamless transition when the time comes for Rohit Sharma to bid farewell to Test cricket. The future of Indian cricket hinges on these decisions, and the time to make them is now.