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MS Dhoni’s worthy IPL rival takes a back seat after inspiring golden era

All good things must come to an end, mustn’t it? In a piece of news that created ripples in the cricket fraternity, Hardik Pandya was named as captain of Mumbai Indians, replacing Rohit Sharma for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 on Friday, December 15. It marked the end of an era as Rohit was one of the finest leaders, if not the finest in the IPL.

A 6-time winner of the IPL, Rohit Sharma is tied on top of the pile with legendary MS Dhoni as the most successful captain in the history of the tournament. In the recent past, it’s been a two-way race between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, led by their influential captains who made sure the TRPs were always high for the cash-rich T20 league.

The clash between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings was dubbed the ‘El Clasico’, a Spanish term that translates to Classic, of the IPL. Fans tuned in to their television sets to watch these two gladiators have a go at each other. Not often have Rohit and Dhoni disappointed fans, producing some of the most memorable contests in the nascent history of the league.

Yes, the IPL is one of the fastest-growing leagues and earlier in the year became the second-most valuable sporting league in the world, only behind America’s National Football League (NFL). In just 16 years, IPL has grown leaps and bounds, leaving naysayers dumbfounded. Among other crucial aspects, the enigmatic captains, including Virat Kohli, Rohit and Dhoni, have played a crucial role in making IPL a household name in the country.


Mumbai Indians had some of the biggest names as captains since the inception of the league. Legendary Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting led Mumbai Indians, but success eluded them in the first five seasons. After finishing 5th and 7th in the first two seasons, MI reached the final in 2010, but the wait for the coveted title extended. Chennai Super Kings were making their own brand with 2 back-to-back titles. Kolkata Knight Riders were able to put behind a slow start and trigger a revival under Gautam Gambhir.

In 2013, another significant leadership transition took place within the Mumbai Indians team that would shape the franchise’s future. Initially, the star-studded team was captained by Ponting, who had been bought at the auction and took charge of the squad. However, Ponting’s performances with the bat did not meet expectations; he scored a mere 52 runs across six games.

Recognising the need for change, Ponting made a selfless decision to step down from the captaincy, paving the way for Rohit Sharma to assume the role. The pivotal moment took place durnig a match against Delhi Capitals when Ponting decided to drop himself from the playing eleven due to his poor form and handled over the reigns to Rohit, who was part of the franchise since 2011.

Rohit Sharma made a stunning first impression, leading the side to title in 2013. There was no looking back from there. The Maharashtra boy went on to win four more titles in the next 11 years. In fact, Mumbai became only the 2nd side after Chennai Super Kings to win the title in successive years when they did so in 2019 and 2019.

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Mumbai Indian’s rise under Rohit Sharma also gave rise to the storied rivalry between them and MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings.

The two teams were the envy of the rest of the teams and their fanbases. With contrasting leadership styles, Dhoni and Rohit went on to sculpt two well-oiled machines that made winning a habit.


Rohit’s approach to captaincy is often described as modern and data-driven. Under his leadership, MI has become known for their strategic use of analytics, dissecting every aspect of the game to gain a competitive edge. This reliance on data has seen MI pull off dramatic victories, often overturning poor starts to clinch the championship.

No wise man would rule out Mumbai Indians even if they had a poor start in an IPL season, knowing their ability to come back. In the 2015 season, MI lost their first four games and had only two wins at the halfway mark. Yet, they went on to win the title in that year, beating the Super Kings in the final.

Rohit’s love for data and his association with former India cricket team analyst CKM Dhananjai is well known. In an interview in 2020, Rohit explained how he embraced data into the game and how it made his life easy as captain.

Rohit’s use of match-ups in the IPL, more often than not, leaves the opposition sides baffled.

“What happens here is crucial, especially for me because, what I’m on the field, those analytics and data given help me on the field to make my decisions. It’s always nice to have plan B and plan C. These guys make my job easier. They filter everything and then they give it to me. And then it’s up to me what I want to execute,” Rohit had told MI in 2020.

Dhoni’s captaincy style is rooted in his uncanny ability to read the game and trust his gut instincts. Dhoni doesn’t believe a lot in team meetings, while Rohit, as revealed by R Ashwin, sometimes spends sleepless nights working on data and man-management plans.

“If you take a look at Indian cricket, everybody will be telling you that MS Dhoni is the best captain. Rohit Sharma is an outstanding person. He understands every single player in the team. He knows the likes and dislikes of each of us and has a great understanding. He puts in the effort to know each player personally,” R Ashwin said earlier in December after Rohit fell one step short of becoming a World Cup-winning Indian captain.

Yes, MS Dhoni has a better win-loss ratio as captain in the IPL – 48.84 percent. But ROhit is not far behind – 55.06 percent.

Rohit, it seems has taken a leaf out of his former captain Dhoni’s book. The Mumbai Indians great, at 37, wants to ensure a smooth transition, keeping in mind the future of the franchise. Hardik, the home-grown boy who went out and won an IPL title with Gujarat Titans is back, and he will have the guidance of Rohit at least for the next few seasons.

MS Dhoni and CSK did struggle in 2022 with their succession plan. It seems Rohit Sharma and Mumbai Indians don’t want to be in such a sticky situation.