Where Virat Kohli stomps and screams, Rohit Sharma walks and laughs, preferring a more genius approach to the art of cricket captaincy than his predecessor as India’s Test skipper.
“A captain has to be at the forefront of the performance, and for everything else he has to be in the back,” Rohit told an event ahead of his appointment to one of the most high-pressure jobs in world sport.
The skipper “can make all the difference by standing in the back because then he can make sure he puts his hand around everyone,” he said. The captain must be “the least important member of the team”.
Kohli, his opponents would argue, felt the opposite.
He was the star, the center of attention and the in-your-face riler of opponents and umpires alike, constantly directing and pushing his troops.
What the two men have in common, however, is their skill with the bat, albeit again with a different approach.
Kohli – who stunned the cricketing world by stepping down as Test captain in January – is the reckless number three or four, always busy between the wickets and taking down the opposition.
Nicknamed ‘The Hitman’, Rohit is a rock-solid opener who can quickly tear up a bowling attack from Chennai to Chester-Le-Street and blast boundaries to all corners.
He has averaged just 47 in Tests, second only to Kohli among current Indian players, and over 58 since he started batting for India in October 2019.
Born with humble beginnings in Nagpur, the running machine made its test debut in 2013, but then fell in and out over the next six years, only solidifying its two-hundred spot against South Africa in his first match as an opener , since while he never looked back.
“I love Hitman, I love watching his cricket,” said former England batsman Kevin Pietersen before the announcement, one of a host of Indian and foreign cricket greats, including former India coach Ravi Shastri to back him up for the job.
Kohli is one of the best batsmen of his generation. Under his leadership, India skyrocketed in the world rankings and became a force to be reckoned with beyond the subcontinent.
This included winning a test series in Australia for the first time, but India failed to win a single international championship during Kohli’s tenure.
Rohit’s success as captain of limited overs cricket – he replaced Kohli as cue captain in December – gives Indian fans hope this drought will end.
With Rohit as captain, Mumbai Indians of the Indian Premier League have won a record five titles. Under Kohli, Bangalore never lifted the trophy.
Whether he can repeat the magic with the dreams of 1.4 billion Indians on his shoulders remains to be seen.
His leadership skills will be put to the test in a year of the T20 World Cup and the ongoing Test Championship with an in-form Australia touring India in September. Next year is the one-day World Cup.
One concern is Rohit’s age – at 34, he is 18 months older than Kohli – and the associated fitness concerns.
He already skipped the recent tour of South Africa and his physique contrasts with the skinny fitness fanatic Kohli, making him the butt of jokes on social media at times.
Many would expect Rohit to remain as captain for only about two years, veteran sports journalist Sharda Ugra told AFP.
She added: “The case with Rohit was that he literally finished last in terms of captaincy and seniority.”