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With Roles Reversed, How Will The Rohit-Dhoni Dynamics Work Out?

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The previous time Kohli and Dhoni were rested, Ajinkya Rahane was assigned the captaincy for the 2015 Zimbabwe tour. As Rahane is no longer a permanent member of the Indian ODI side, a ‘course correction’ by the selectors was only obvious.

Accompanied by another debutant captain (Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera), Rohit Sharma would certainly have had some butterflies in his stomach, as he made the long walk from the pavilion to the pitch of the picturesque Dharamshala stadium for the toss on Sunday (December 10, 2017). What would probably have been more unusual for him was the fact that he would be leading the side with Mahendra Singh Dhoni in it.

The rapport shared by Kohli and Dhoni is a treat for the Indian spectators. As the viewers look on, every time MSD makes a fielding change from behind the stumps – with the same authority as he used to, when he was the captain – it’s a testament to the the solidarity of the Indian cricket team. Every time there is a DRS call to be made, the way all eyes (including Virat’s) turn to Dhoni has become a characteristic of the Indian cricket team.

Being an active part of this set-up, Rohit too must have been observing it all this while. Somewhere, in his flight of fancy, he must have been dwelling on what he would do differently if he was the captain. After all, this is his chance to show what he’s made of.

In the September of 2007, the Kingsmead cricket ground in Durban was buzzing, jam-packed with its full capacity. The stadium, located on the shore of the South Atlantic Ocean, had already been a witness to Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes against England, just a day ago.

India was facing South Africa on its home turf to ensure a semi-final berth in the inaugural ICC T20 World Cup. When Rohit Sharma came out to bat, the team was tottering at 61-4. The opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir was already back in the hut. On a tough wicket where the ball was wobbling due to the sea breeze, Rohit fought it out with his maiden T20I fifty and bagged the Man of the Match award.

Interestingly, on the other end was skipper MS Dhoni, who had been recently assigned the captaincy of the Indian team. It was the 85-run partnership between Rohit and Dhoni that pulled out India from trouble and allowed it to advance to a the semi-finals.

That was the first solid partnership between Rohit and Dhoni in the middle. Ever since, the duo has nurtured a strong bond between themselves – both on and off the field.

When Rohit burst on to the cricketing scene, he mesmerised one and all with his elegance and stroke-making. Whoever saw him (fans and cricket pundits alike), was in awe of the Mumbai batsman. But gradually, the ‘pleasing-on-the-eye’ adjective started sounding more caustic than complimentary. Everyone knew that the guy had real talent, but their frustration owing to his streak of failures was also palpable.

MSD gave Rohit a long (very long, indeed) rope in the middle-order, but he too was becoming unsure of Rohit’s place in the ODI side. On the 2012-13 England tour of India, Rohit had been warming the benches – with fellow Mumbai batsman, Ajinkya Rahane, making the final XI.

After Rahane failed to deliver the goods in the first three ODIs, Rohit got a game in the fourth ODI at Mohali. But voila! This time, he was an opener. For once, Rohit did not disappoint as he went on to make a breezy 83. Although he could not duplicate his performance in the fifth ODI at Dharamshala, MSD’s ingenious brain had noticed something. It was Rohit’s knock in Mohali that sowed the seeds of something that had the potential to flip his ODI career upside down.

Rohit Sharma mesmerised one and all with his elegance and stroke-making.(Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The next thing Rohit knew was that he would be opening the batting with Shikhar Dhawan for India in the Champions Trophy in June 2013. It would be fair to say that Rohit did not have a run-feast like Dhawan, who went on to score 363 runs in five innings, and became the tournament’s highest scorer. However, Rohit’s achievement (the tournament’s fifth-highest run scorer with two 50s) was a lot better than his previous performances. Moreover, India struck gold with a solid left-right opening combination, that had no issues with pace and was adept enough to score runs in alien conditions.

After Dhoni quit captaincy, Rohit himself revealed what had precisely happened leading to his promotion in the batting order. “He (Dhoni) just came up to me and said, ‘I want you to open the innings as I am confident that you will do well. Since you can play both cut and pull shot well, you have the qualities to succeed as an opener’,” Rohit Sharma told PTI.

Rohit not only recognises the positive impact Dhoni has had on his career, he has also not shied away from making his admiration public.

“I believe the decision to open in ODIs changed my career and it was a decision taken by MS Dhoni. I became a better batsman after that. In fact it helped me understand my game better, react better according to situations. With no disrespect to other great Indian captains, I was blessed to play under MS all these years. His calmness in pressure situations helped us. He always led from the front. There won’t be one like him,” an emotional Rohit had once said, giving Mahi his due credit.

When Rohit scored his maiden double century in the seventh ODI against Australia in Bengaluru, he aptly had skipper Dhoni by his side.

Fast forward a little to the third India-Sri Lanka ODI in Pallekele this year. India had what could be called a batting collapse. Coincidently, the score was 61-4 (again) when Dhoni took the crease amid the superb spell of the Lankan off-break spinner, Akila Dananjaya, with Rohit at the other end. The duo steadied the ship and led India to a comfortable three-wicket victory.

Rohit was all praise for the calm-headed Dhoni, as he even dished out a tweet for him –

With level-headedness and equanimity as his stand-out traits, Rohit has already proved his credentials as a captain in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Once he was elevated to the position of the permanent captain of the Mumbai Indians in 2013, the 30-year-old led the team to a record 3-time victory. After MI bagged the 2017 edition of the IPL, he was asked if he was aspiring to become India’s T20 captain in the coming future. However, the elegant right-hander said, “That’s thinking too far ahead. I don’t think too far ahead. When the opportunity comes, it comes. I will grab it with both hands.”

Recently, when he was asked how different captaining India will be from leading the Mumbai Indians, Rohit said, “It will be completely a different ball game all together but the process and basics of captaincy will remain the same.”

It’s no secret that Dhoni has shielded Rohit at different times of his roller-coaster career. But, nothing is permanent in life – and cricket is no exception. With rising criticism, Dhoni is working hard to wield his spot in the side till the 2019 World Cup. Rohit, on the other hand, had been struggling to cement his place in the Test XI. Now, he finds himself as the skipper of the ODI team, due to the absence of Virat Kohli.

Being of the same age group as Virat, Rohit will have limited ambitions of captaincy. But, having played under Dhoni’s captaincy for the most part of his career, the chemistry between Rohit and Dhoni in the novel arrangement should be a treat to watch. All said and done, the eyes of the Indian fans will pass by Rohit and rest on Dhoni – be it in the case of a DRS call or bringing about a bowling or fielding change.


A version of this post was first published here.


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Featured image source: Rohit Sharma 45/Facebook
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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