Ajinkya Rahane has been hailed as a true leader after captaining India to a fantastic win in the Melbourne Test against Australia after Team India were bowled out for their lowest-ever Test score of 36 in the Adelaide Test. Rahane received the man of the match award for his brilliant 112 in the first innings that helped India put 326, and take a match-winning lead of 131 runs.
For the record, it was the third win for Rahane as the Test captain in as many matches. He has won his previous two Tests as captain against Australia at Dharamsala in 2017, and against Afghanistan in Bengaluru in 2018.
So, is Rahane a better Test skipper than Kohli?
Rahane has shown great calmness
No player would like to lead when the team has been just handed a humiliation, and critics have written them off, warning of a 4-0 whitewash. But Rahane took up the challenge of leading the team from the front, inspiring his teammates with his performance, and instilling self-belief that they can fight, and win after an embarrassing loss at Adelaide. It speaks volume of Rahane’s leadership to shrug off the Adelaide loss and come out at Melbourne with a fighting spirit that eventually triumphed.
Kohli too has done so
Kohli too had led India from 0-1 down to level the series 1-1 twice in his Test career. He did it first in the Test series against Sri Lanka in the island nation in 2015. India won the series 2-1 under Kohli. He again did it in the Test series against Australia at home in 2017. But in that series, Rahane was the captain in the last Test to win the series 2-1 after Kohli was sidelined due to a shoulder injury.
Rahane’s handling of his players
Rahane handled his limited resources extremely well in Melbourne, after missing four first XI players in Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma, and another in the middle of Melbourne Test, with Umesh Yadav out with injury. He also had 2 debutants to guide in Melbourne Test. But Rahane turned adversity into opportunity as Team India rallied under him to secure a great win.
Kohli too manages his resources well
Kohli too has dealt with lack of first XI players throughout his Test captaincy. In fact, he has dropped his key players for lack of ‘intent’, inconsistency or poor scoring rate. But he has always emerged triumph, mostly at home Tests, where he has lost just once to Australia. But away from home and especially in SENA countries, his record as Test captain is not much to boast about, winning only 4 Tests out of 17 Tests, and losing 11.
Both Kohli and Rahane lead from the front
Both Kohli and Rahane love to lead from the front. Kohli has always done so, and that has helped Team India climb to the top of Test rankings. And Rahane too showed he can do what Kohli has done so far. So, both these captains excel in this area. However, Kohli takes it a notch higher as Test captain as he averages 60.69 as skipper but just 41.13 as a non-captain. And Rahane is just three Tests old as captain, and has a lot much work to do.
Rahane’s team selection has been spot on
Kohli has always come up for criticism for his wrong choice of players. Even in the Adelaide Test, his selection of playing XI was questionable. His selection of Prithvi Shaw ahead of Shubman Gill, and W Saha ahead of Rishabh Pant defied logic as Gill had impressed more in tour games, while Pant had always done better overseas than Saha.
In the Melbourne Test, Gill and Pant made useful contributions to justify Rahane’s XI selection. Even choosing all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja ahead of KL Rahul to replace a specialist batsman in Virat Kohli was a bold decision that paid off in a big way in the Melbourne Test. It serves as a leadership lesson for Kohli.
Rahane has shown great leadership skills, but Kohli has been doing it consistently well, although his overseas Test records as skipper in SENA countries is doubtful. But if there is a worthy successor to Kohli, it is Rahane.
Cover image courtesy: PTI