Last chance for Kohli, Rohit before Gambhir takes over as India coach

Gautam Gambhir, the front-runner to replace Rahul Dravid, will not hesitate to shut the door on two superstars regardless of India's results in this World Cup


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Virat Kohli (right) and Rohit Sharma will not get another chance for T20 redemption if they fail to win this edition of the World Cup. — AFP
Virat Kohli (right) and Rohit Sharma will not get another chance for T20 redemption if they fail to win this edition of the World Cup. — AFP

Published: Wed 19 Jun 2024, 5:42 PM

Last updated: Wed 19 Jun 2024, 5:43 PM

India’s cricket-obsessed public would be praying for a perfect start when Rohit Sharma’s men begin their Super Eights campaign against Afghanistan at the T20 World Cup on Thursday.

A false start could spell trouble for India which also have to vie with Australia, their old nemesis, and Bangladesh, for a place in the semifinals.

For a star-studded squad that have failed to go the distance in ICC tournaments for more than a decade, anything less than a semifinal appearance would be a disaster of epic proportions.

We don’t yet know how far this team of superstars could go in the West Indies, but what we do know is that a new head coach is waiting to inject fresh ideas once the curtain falls on the global showpiece.

Gautam Gambhir, as per media reports in India, is all set to replace the outgoing Rahul Dravid as the head coach after the World Cup.

Dravid, who honed his skills as a coach at an age-group level before taking up the big job, failed in all three of his attempts to deliver an ICC trophy with India losing the 2022 T20 World Cup semifinals before succumbing to the pressure in the title deciders of the ICC Test Championship and the ODI World Cup last year.

He may yet go out with a bang in the West Indies later this month, but his conservative style of coaching which mirrored his famous ‘over my dead body’ approach as a batter, would give way to Gambhir’s gung-ho zeal for bold and aggressive cricket.

Gambhir, famous for his heroic match-winning knocks in two World Cup finals (2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 ODI World Cup), enjoyed only a few years at the top as an international batsman before he began to sink into oblivion as bowlers around the world started exploiting his shortcoming in technique.

But it’s his leadership qualities, which brought him two IPL titles as Kolkata Knight Riders captain (2012, 2014) and one more as a mentor (2024), that have catapulted Gambhir into the league of legends.

Now the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has reportedly identified Gambhir as the man who could turn around India’s fortunes in ICC tournaments.

But Gambhir is likely to make some major changes in the team as ageing stars Rohit, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja, could be forced out of India’s T20 squad.

With India scheduled to co-host the next T20 World Cup alongside Sri Lanka in 2026, Gambhir is keen on rebuilding the T20 team with young players who have displayed a fearless brand of cricket in the IPL.

Ironically, none of India’s big stars — Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid and Sourav Ganguly — jumped on the T20 bandwagon in 2007 when South Africa was getting ready to host the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup.

It was with a new-look team under a new captain, MS Dhoni, that India went into that World Cup before going on to script a memorable triumph with an epic win in a nerve-racking final against Pakistan.

Gambhir was one of the heroes that day at the Wanderers, setting the tone with a superb knock of 75.

Seventeen years on, Gambhir is now aspiring to lay the platform for a new India, an India that will have no place for two of its greatest icons ever, Rohit and Kohli.

The two veterans still have a big role to play in Test cricket and ODIs. But in T20s, this edition of the World Cup is their final chance to end years of heartbreaks.

Both batting giants would happily swap all of their personal landmarks for a piece of silverware with the Indian team.

But if they fail to realise that dream this month in the Caribbean islands, Gambhir will not be swayed by emotions when it comes to choosing between a pair of decorated veterans and promising young talents while building a road map to the next T20 World Cup.


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