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Virat, Pant or Bumrah: Captaincy puzzle awaits after Rohit Sharma’s availability doubts

India leads the five-match Test series 2-1, and a win or even a draw would help them seal the series, but a loss would be disastrous given the upcoming busy season and the crucial World Test Championship (WTC) points at stake.

SNS | New Delhi |

With skipper Rohit Sharma’s availability for the rescheduled fifth Test against England beginning on July 1 at Edgbaston as the charismatic batter continues his recovery from Covid-19, India faces a captaincy conundrum ahead of the high-stakes contest.

India leads the five-match Test series 2-1, and a win or even a draw would help them seal the series, but a loss would be disastrous given the upcoming busy season and the crucial World Test Championship (WTC) points at stake.

Sharma tested positive for Covid-19 during a warm-up game against Leicestershire, missing the match’s second innings. The Indian team management is hopeful that he will recover in time for the Test, but if he does not, India will be in a difficult situation, as vice-captain KL Rahul has also been ruled out due to a groyne injury.

India had to fly opener Mayank Agarwal to Birmingham on Monday to cover for Sharma. While the India squad still has a few members who can step up to fill the void, how things play out in the coming days remains to be seen.

Pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah is one of the leading contenders for the captaincy if Sharma’s recovery continues. According to the ICC, it will be a historic moment for Indian cricket because the talismanic bowler will become the first quick since the legendary Kapil Dev to lead an Indian Test side in nearly three decades.

Bumrah, 28, was previously named vice-captain during India’s ODI tour of South Africa, with KL Rahul leading the side in Sharma’s absence. He also served as Sharma’s deputy as vice-captain during the Test and T20I series against Sri Lanka.

Captaining the team, however, will be a tall order for Bumrah, who has only played 29 Tests for his country. He has yet to lead India in any format, and he has also never captained a team in the IPL.

Rishabh Pant, India’s wicketkeeper-batter, is a rising star who is being groomed as a future captain. Pant has enough captaincy experience under his belt after receiving guidance from none other than former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting in the Indian Premier League and leading Delhi Capitals for two seasons.

He recently captained India in a five-match T20I series at home against South Africa, and while India drew 2-2 with the final match being washed out, the side did claw back from a 0-2 deficit to end the series on equal terms.

Pant’s aggressive instincts could come in handy as a leader against England, but it remains to be seen whether the team management is willing to put him in charge of the high-profile fifth Test.

While former skipper Virat Kohli has an outside chance of being asked to lead the side, given that it was under his leadership that India took a 2-1 lead against England last year, it would be fitting for him to finish the job.

Kohli relinquished the captaincy in the longest format following a 2-1 series loss in South Africa. But there is no doubt about his leadership abilities. Under his leadership, India reached the pinnacle of Test cricket, rising to No. 1 in the world and reaching the World Test Championship final, where they were defeated by New Zealand.

According to the ICC, Kohli is India’s most successful captain in the longest format, having won 40 of the 68 matches under his command for a win percentage of 58.82.

It remains to be seen whether Kohli is still interested in resuming his captaincy duties.

(Inputs from IANS)