Shoaib Akhtar, former Pakistan pacer popularly known as Rawalpindi Express feels Rohit Sharma leading the Indian Test team against Australia in Virat Kohli’s absence is a no brainer and the-much awaited series will be his “best chance” to stake a claim for captaincy in one of the limited-overs formats.
There are constant calls for split captaincy in the Indian team since Rohit Sharma led Mumbai Indians to a fifth title in the IPL. Rohit Sharma has also led India to an Asia Cup title in Virat Kohli’s absence.
Shoaib Akhtar: Virat Kohli May Think Of Giving Leadership Role To Rohit Sharma In T20Is If He Feels Fatigued
Though Ajinkya Rahane is the official vice-captain, Shoaib Akhtar sees Rohit Sharma taking over leadership duties from Virat Kohli following the first Test. The Indian skipper will be returning home after the series-opener day-night test in Adelaide to attend the birth of his first child.
Speaking to PTI, Shoaib Akhtar offered his view on the debate, “My take on it is pretty simple. From what I know Virat is very keen to take the team forward. It all depends on how fatigued he is feeling. He has been playing non-stop since 2010, has got 70 centuries and a mountain of runs under his belt.
“If he is feeling fatigued, then he should think about giving the leadership role to Rohit in one of the formats (preferably T20s).
“I could see the boredom on his face during the IPL, maybe it was because of the bio-bubble situation, he seemed a bit stressed out. It all depends on how he feels. Rohit has been ready for captaincy for a while.”
The series will also be Rohit Sharma’s first in overseas conditions as an opener, and he faces a tough task in facing the likes of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
“Rohit is one of the greatest batsmen India has produced. Now, he also understands the real value of his talent.
“Australia will be his best chance to prove himself as captain. He should grab it with both hands. He has the talent and ability to lead the team. It will be a tough test for India and I would look for these kinds of situations as a player.
“The whole world would be looking at Rohit as captain and batsman. If he does well for himself and the team, then there should be a debate about split captaincy,” he added.
Virat Kohli is India’s most successful Test skipper with 33 wins in 55 tests, and India won 62 among 89 ODIs and 22 among 37 T20Is under him. Rohit Sharma led in 10 ODIs and 20 T20Is winning 8 and 16 games respectively.
Shoaib Akhtar: India Have the Ability To Win Again And Day-Night Test Will Be Their Toughest But Australian Bowlers Will Be Challengeable
India won their first-ever series in Australia two years ago in 2018-19, but the task seems much tougher this time with Virat Kohli a notable absentee in last three Tests and Australia being a stronger team following the return of David Warner and Steve Smith, who were absent in 2018-19 for serving year-long ban on ball-tampering.
“In my opinion, India have the ability to win again. But if their middle order doesn’t perform, I see them struggling. People will be watching this series with great interest including myself.
“The day-night Test will be their toughest test. If India play well in those conditions, then you never know. The first two innings of the first Test will tell us where the series is headed,” Shoaib Akhtar further said.
Shoaib Akhtar reckons India have a potent bowling line-up too and sees KL Rahul replacing Virat Kohli at number four batting position in the last three Tests.
“It takes two-three innings to control that forward trigger movement in foreign conditions. You can’t drive on the up and have to play close to the body.
“It will be interesting to see how the pitches will be. The Aussies will come hard at India that is for sure and won’t be giving easy balls to drive,” said the 45-year-old, who played 46 Tests and 163 ODIs for Pakistan.
Shoaib Akhtar, who was reputed for his express pace, said Australia should produce fast and bouncy wickets for the series as it will help their potent pace attack comprising of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
“They can run through teams and they can run through your bodies (laughs). If Australia act wisely, they should produce pace-friendly wickets,” he said referring to the trio of Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc.
To match the body language of Australians on the field, Shoaib Akhtar feels more Indian players will need to have the aggressive approach that Virat Kohli thrives on.