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Cool and caring, captain Rohit Sharma comes to the fore

He exercises a level of diplomacy when it comes to words, but that’s only reserved for press conferences and in spaces which require him to be polished.
Last Updated 28 February 2024, 16:45 IST

Ranchi: Rohit Sharma’s face is in perpetual contortion. His expression - occasionally the hands - typifies the situation he is in. And typically, it’s one of exasperation.

He exercises a level of diplomacy when it comes to words, but that’s only reserved for press conferences and in spaces which require him to be polished. 

When the cameras are turned off, though, the real Rohit comes out. He’s about as hilarious with his words as he his with face is on the field. But the face is us laughing at him, the personality is us laughing with him.

In all this, you get a sense that he’s either an overgrown child or a very playful man.

As endearing it is, this ‘bindaas’ trait is precisely why a whole new generation of cricketers have walked into the dressing room and are finding themselves at ease with the culture in the dressing room. 

This series against England has not been easy because India were without Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul and then Jasprit Bumrah for different reasons and to varying degrees. 

India have since the beginning of the series given debuts to four - Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel, Akash Deep and Rajat Patidar. They might not all be young, but they don’t have Test match experience. Moreover, they have Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill in the side. Jaiswal is 22 and Gill 24. 

That’s a lot of inexperience and youth. It’s not unprecedented, but it’s not something many skippers have had to face for this long in their stint at the helm. 

It’s even more interesting because India didn’t have to inject any debutants for the opening Test in Hyderabad, and they lost that one with Rohit looking clueless. His fields were uninspiring, his batting was uninspiring, he was uninspiring. 

Come the second Test in Visakhapatnam, Rohit was just different. He knew he couldn’t wait for the game to come to him because with England playing the way they were - ‘Bazball’ and whatnot - the game wouldn’t organically move his way. He had to go get the game. 

He did. His young team did. Since this realisation, India have won three Tests on the trot and have taken an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-game series. 

Leadership

Rohit has showcased the kind of leadership one didn’t expect of him. It’s one thing to take Mumbai Indians to title after title in the Indian Premier League, it’s another entirely to keep the essence of the side alive with so many moving, injury-prone/ break-asking, parts. 

This is why he took to Instagram after the third Test in Rajkot and put out a cheeky: “Ye aajkal ke bacche (Kids these days)...”

What he was referring to was how Jaiswal, Sarfaraz and Jurel had performed to give India a 434-run victory. It was Rohit being the cool and caring elder brother. 

He can be hard on them when he has to be and often reprimands them for zoning out or being childish when the game is afoot, but when he’s off the field, he’s a charming ball of paternal expression. 

Even when he said he didn’t want to say too much about Jaiswal after his double-hundred in Rajkot, you could tell that he wanted to cocoon the boy from outside noises. 

He spoke at length on Sarfaraz’s abilities and his contributions but that’s because he isn’t as young as Jaiswal and he’s been in the limelight long enough to understand the ways of the world. 

Even Jurel was given his flowers, but it was measured. Jaiswal, he eventually said, is a bit ‘hunky-dory’ so he’s trying to reel him in. 

There have been several instances where Rohit has come out looking like the father to a bunch of young men. 

Rohit has added another dimension to his career as a cricketer. It is not one numbers will reflect, and it does not strike you at a glance. It’s nuanced, but it’s worth the effort to see because Rohit is both young and old at the same time. A dichotomy twisted into a cuddly frame.

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(Published 28 February 2024, 16:45 IST)

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