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Shreyas Iyer And KL Rahul: Two Contrasting Tales For The Two India Stars This IPL
When Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli eventually call it a day to their stellar international careers, the focus will be on finding the next skipper for the Men in Blue. While Virat Kohli's captaincy days are probably behind him, Rohit Sharma is 35 years old now and probably has two to three years of cricket left in him. It might be time to look beyond these two giants of Indian cricket and find the next heir to the throne.
With Rohit and Virat at the back end of their careers, we are at a stage now where captaincy hopefuls can stake a claim for the Indian captaincy. And the perfect way for these players to move ahead of their peers is by leading an IPL franchise successfully. Virat Kohli did just that in the initial stages of his career, where he led the Royal Challengers Bangalore for the first time in 2011 before taking on India's Test captaincy in 2014. Before leading India's white-ball side, Kohli had already led RCB to two playoffs. So, Virat was the obvious choice when Dhoni stood down.
But this time, India seems to have a plethora of options to choose from. In this year's IPL, apart from MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma, there are 6 Indians leading their respective franchises. Among that list of probable Indian captains, both KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer are looking like the front-runners. But while one captain is well on his way to IPL glory, the other is staring down the barrel.
Both Rahul and Iyer have revealed their captaincy ambitions in the past. Both players started their captaincy journey in the IPL almost at the same time, with Rahul taking over the Punjab Kings in 2020, while Shreyas Iyer got his chance midway through the 2018 season. Rahul has already led India in Tests and ODI's against South Africa and has been appointed as Rohit Sharma's deputy in all formats of the game.
After being released by the Punjab Kings after two disappointing seasons in terms of his leadership, Rahul was picked by the Lucknow Super Giants for a whooping ₹17 crores, making him the highest paid player in IPL history. The LSG management bought Rahul with the intention of making him the captain, something which Gautam Gambhir revealed before the IPL began. And Rahul has been delivering the goods so far in terms of his batting and leadership.
Gambhir, who is the chief strategist and mentor of the Lucknow Super Giants, said prior to the tournament: "I would want KL Rahul the batter, who also captains more than the other way round." With 459 runs in 12 games so far and 2nd in the orange cap race, Rahul seems to be repaying the faith of the management with his batting. From a captaincy point of view, the Karnataka batsman has led LSG to the playoffs, with the side currently sitting 2nd in the points table.
But it wasn't all this rosy for the 30-year-old, who has had his fair share of disappointments. Rahul led the Punjab Kings for two years in 2020 and 2021 and failed to qualify for the playoffs on both occasions. While his ability with the bat was never in doubt as he plundered 670 and 626 runs in those two years, KL Rahul, the captain, was under huge pressure.
His strike rate was questioned at times, even though he was scoring at 129 and 138 in those two seasons. There were rumors that he had fallen out with head coach Anil Kumble, which resulted in him leaving the franchise. He later explained that leaving Punjab was a "tough call." His captaincy assignments with India haven't gone well either, with India losing all games, including a test and 3 ODIs.
But at LSG seems to have found his feet again after a tough period. While he wore a frustrating look at times with Punjab, he seems to be calmer on the field this year. Even after losing two of three games in the middle phase, Rahul rallied around his side to victory against the Mumbai Indians by scoring a brilliant century. He showcased his tactical nous by throwing the ball to off-spinner Ayush Badoni to dismiss the in-form Suryakumar Yadav.
While Rahul's captaincy has improved by leaps and bounds this season, Shreyas Iyer has cut a frustrating figure at the helm of the Kolkata Knight Riders. Iyer, who led the Delhi Capitals to their only final appearance and a playoff, lost his captaincy to Rishabh Pant last year. With lofty captaincy ambitions, Iyer was never going to stay in Delhi and was picked by KKR at the auction.
After losing Eoin Morgan, who led the team to the final last year, KKR and Iyer looked to be a perfect fit. But it hasn't turned out that way for the former Delhi skipper, with KKR languishing in 7th in the points table and almost out of playoff contention. On a personal note, Iyer is having a decent season with the bat, scoring 336 runs at an average of 30.55.
He hasn't made the same impact with the bat as Rahul has, with both Iyer's half-centuries this season coming in losing causes. Most importantly, his authority as captain took a massive hit when he made a bombshell comment that the CEO of KKR was also included in the selection process. There are also rumors of a rift between Iyer and head coach Brendon McCullum.
During KKR's match against the Rajasthan Royals, Yuzvendra Chahal took a hat-trick, and Iyer, who was just dismissed, was visibly upset at coach McCullum for not sending Pat Cummins to bat. This was the beginning of not just a losing streak of KKR, but also the emergence of cracks between Iyer and the KKR management.
KKR's team selection this season has been quite puzzling as they have used 20 players this season in 12 games. After having a tactical genius in Ricky Ponting to guide him in leading the side in Delhi, Iyer seems to be struggling to adapt to the aggressive and all-or-nothing approach of Brendon McCullum.
Anyhow, it isn't over for either Iyer or Rahul as far as the Indian captaincy is concerned.
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