'Hardik should say goodbye to Rohit and Kohli respectfully': Shoaib Akhtar – Hindustan Times

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As it happens so often after an ODI World Cup, Team India is set to enter a transition phase. It will take time for the fans and the players to get over the heartbreak in the final but the selectors will have to look at the future sooner rather than later. Head coach Rahul Dravid has reportedly decided not to continue and by the time the next ODI World Cup appears in 2027, India captain Rohit Sharma will be 40 while Virat Kohli will be 39. Does BCCI think both Rohit and Kohli can be at their best at that time? There is no doubt about their quality but four years might be a bridge too far to cross two of the stalwarts of Indian cricket. Before thinking about what might happen four years down the line, the board and selectors have an immediate decision to make.
The T20 World Cup is slated for June next year. There’s hardly any time to shift focus towards the shortest format. More or so for India. They officially don’t have a head coach or a captain. Yes, Hardik Pandya has been leading India in T20Is for the last 12 months or so but it is still not clear whether he will be India’s charge in the World Cup in the West Indies and the USA seven months from now, at least not officially.
Moreover, will Rohit and Kohli be considered? The dynamic duo have not featured in a single T20I since the last edition of the World Cup in Australia in 2022. But was it because of the focus on the ODI World Cup at home? Rohit has dropped subtle hints about the T20 World Cup being at the back of his mind a few times in the past few months and with the way he led the side in the recently concluded 50-over edition, it is only fair that he is given one final crack at laying his hands on an ICC trophy.
Former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar feels India won’t get a better opener than Rohit and that both he and Kohli have a lot of cricket left in them. “If you ask do Rohit and Kohli have cricket left in them? Yes, definitely. Do you get a better opener than Rohit in the world right now? No, you don’t,” he told Zee News.
Akhtar said if the transition phase takes place at all then it should be Hardik’s (assuming he will take over the captaincy mantle) responsibility to make them phase out respectfully. Akhtar gave the example of how Dhoni dealt with Sachin Tendulkar or even how Kohli handled Dhoni after the latter had relinquished captaincy duties.
“When Dhoni came, he gave respect to Sachin Tendulkar. When Virat came, he respected Dhoni. When Rohit replaced Virat, he also gave him respect. So, now it’s up to Hardik Pandya how he wants to send these two great players off. It’s up to him now to put his put down. And he has to bid them goodbye respectfully. They deserve this respect. I’m maybe putting pressure on Hardik Pandya through this but he needs to give that respect to Rohit and Kohli. He is in the team because of them. The kind of favours he has got in the team from them should be repaid. And they are legends of Indian cricket, so they should be given due respect before they are let go,” Akhtar added.
There is another important aspect that would keep the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee on their toes. Hardik is injury-prone. Despite being wrapped in cotton wool for a large part of the year with meticulously crafted workload management modules, Hardik could not avoid an ankle injury during the ODI World Cup. While it was unfortunate – Hardik twisted his ankle while trying to field of his own bowling and can happen to anyone – the selectors would be mindful before naming him the official captain for white-ball teams.
Currently, Suryakumar Yadav, India’s designated vice-captain in T20Is, is leading India in a five-match T20I series against Australia. With Hardik unlikely to regain fitness in time, he is likely to remain captain for the South Africa T20Is starting December 10.
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