Indian cricket journalists believe that Ajinkya Rahane is a superior captain to Virat Kohli, according to respected Australian scribe Robert Craddock.
Rahane is usually India’s vice captain but stepped up to the top job following the 36 all out first Test embarrassment in Adelaide.
Kohli is out for the remainder of the series as he awaits the birth of his first child.
And Rahane’s response to the enormous responsibility was spectacular, crafting a wonderful century and winning widespread praise for his captaincy as India swept to a surprise eight wicket win over Australia in the second Test in Melbourne.
It’s only one game and no-one in their right mind would suggest India is a better team without Kohli.
But it does raise the question as to whether a change in leadership could become more permanent.
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“Calmness is its own gold plated virtue in cricket,” Craddock said on The Follow On podcast.
“A couple of the Indian journalists have been saying to me that… Rahane is a better captain because the players play more for the team’s expectation and their own expectations, rather than Virat’s expectations.”
Craddock highlighted Rahane’s mentoring of debutant paceman Mohammed Siraj on day one.
“Rahane, on the first day at the drinks break, put his arm around him, took him aside for a chat and said you’ll be right, we’ll get you into this game soon enough,” Craddock said.
“He was putting his arm around bowlers, urging them through spells.
“It was just lovely, soft, sensitive captaincy — and I think that works better in the modern world.
“When they won the game – his celebration was, he took his gloves off.
“That’s all he did, shook the umpire’s hand, as if to say: yeah, one all in a four match series, I’m not doing star jumps yet.”
Australian cricket great Ian Chappell is also a massive Rahane fan.
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Chappell said Kohli remained the best option as captain but explained the Rahane effect after that MCG ton.
“When you lose a star player, the replacement player can’t cover for the champion player,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“What you need is everybody to contribute a little bit more. I think that’s obviously led by Rahane, and it’s pretty obvious that Rahane has tremendous respect within that Indian team.
“Two things have happened: they’ve realised they’ve all got to put in a little bit extra to make up for Kohli, but they’ve also got the aspect of: Ajinkya, we really respect him, we like him as a person, and we’re going to put in a little bit extra for him as well.
“I always thought that India would be okay under Rahane, but when you throw everything in, 1-0 down, (Mohammed) Shami out with an injury, Kohli going home, I didn’t think that Rahane would make this sort of difference, but he has.”
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India coach Ravi Shastri called Rahane a “very shrewd leader” and a “good reader of the game.”
“I thought his calm composure out there helped the debutants as well as the bowlers,” Shastri said.
“There was a calming influence out there in spite of losing Umesh.
“Virat is very passionate. Ajinkya, on the other hand, is very calm and composed, and it’s their characters. Virat is more in your face, while Ajinkya is quite prepared to sit back in a very calm and composed manner, but deep inside he knows what he wants.”