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IPL 2017 Final Preview: Captain Rohit Sharma stands up, silently

IPL 2017 Final Preview: Captain Rohit Sharma stands up, silently – Never looked upon as a leader at the big stage, the Mumbai Indians captain has delivered consistent results over five seasons with simple yet effective tactics.

Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma answers a question at the trophy presentation with Rising Pune Supergiant captain Steven Smith on the eve of the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL) final in Hyderabad on May 20, 2017 (AFP)

Did you know Rohit Sharma will be playing his fourth Indian Premier League (IPL) final when he steps on to the field at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal on Sunday night?

Not just that, the Mumbai batsman will be leading Mumbai Indians in the third final over the last five years. And should he win, Sharma will be the first captain to have three IPL trophies in his cabinet.

That’s an intriguing number for someone who has never been touted as a potential leader in any format of the game at the big stage. A quintessential batsman with lazy elegance is all that one identifies with Sharma.

India’s most successful captain, MS Dhoni, has the most envious record of entering IPL finals: this will be his seventh title clash, making Chennai Super Kings (CSK) champions twice.

While Dhoni was always considered as one of the best leaders Team India has have ever had and leading CSK was just a cake walk in his hey days, Sharma was never thought of as a captain.

Even when the talk of Dhoni hanging up his boots started, only Virat Kohli – who led India to the U-19 World Cup title – was touted as the perfect successor to him, thanks to his consistent performances in all formats of the game.

Sharma, meanwhile, was nowhere in the picture despite him being the second-most experienced batsman in the Indian batting line-up and a permanent fixture, at least in limited-overs cricket.

Even MI captaincy fell on his lap due to lack of choice. Sharma got his first taste of captaincy in the middle of the 2013 season, when coach-cum-captain Ricky Ponting was struggling with form. The Aussie made way to give Sharma the throne.

And boy, hasn’t he led with tremendous success in the last five seasons?

One may not stand up and notice the instant changes that he makes on the field and admire his tactical calls like one would with Dhoni, but they’re simple, straightforward and effective.

“Over the years, he has been very confident as a player after he got those ODI double hundreds,” said former Mumbai Ranji Trophy coach Praveen Amre. “He is very confident and makes good adjustments to his game. That he has been playing with this team for so many years also makes it a bit easier.”

Amre revealed that Sharma’s consistency in the IPL has helped him as a leader.

“It is a right move by Mumbai Indians of giving him captaincy at the right age with the space to develop. Leading an IPL team is the toughest challenge as players come from different countries and culture.

“Also, it more difficult to lead because small mistakes can lose you games. He has been a contributor for his team. He has more than 4,000 runs in IPL, which also makes him a key player. The responsibility to score makes him a good leader,” Amre said.

The former India batsman said Rohit was never a natural captain.

“He is a good learner of the game and a good student. Leadership has made him calmer and he backs his players to the hilt. He easily adjusts to the challenges. How Kapil Dev led the side is similar to Rohit. He also has a very good team at his disposal. You won’t see him strategise much and think but he likes to keep it simple and practical,” Amre said.

MI under captain Rohit
Matches: 74

Wins: 45

Losses: 29

No results: 0