Not even Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, or Rishabh Pant. Hardik Pandya has been named India‘s captain for the two-match T20I series against Ireland, after impressing the selectors with his title-winning performance as the captain of Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 season. Can Hardik be India’s long-term captaincy solution?

Virat Kohli’s resignation as India’s captain in all three forms effectively passed the mantle to Rohit Sharma. While there is little doubt that Rohit will captain India at the T20 World Cup in 2022 and the ODI World Cup in 2023, the team’s future after that is uncertain.

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Rohit Sharma’s fitness is not one of his strong strengths. Unlike Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, expecting the Hitman to play till the age of 39 or 40 may be asking too much. Even before Rohit was named India’s captain for all three forms, many commentators questioned how he would manage his workload and health.

Rohit has already missed many series since taking over from Kohli due to fitness, injury, and other factors. 

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While Kohli is no longer a leadership prospect, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, and Hardik Pandya appear as the three most likely replacements. In Tests, Jasprit Bumrah is another possibility.

No one has wowed more than Hardik in the early stages of his leadership tenure in limited-overs cricket. While Rahul remains India’s deputy for the time being, if his record as a captain does not improve, the selectors will be looking for a change, and Hardik is currently emerging as the strongest prospect.

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Rahul, who is currently 30 years old, too appears to be burdened by the weight of captaincy on his shoulders. The selectors do not want to see him stifle his natural game, which is so valuable right now.

Rishabh Pant has experience on his side, but how effective has he been as Delhi Capitals captain so far? Pant hasn’t yet impressed in his two seasons as the Delhi Capitals’ captain in the IPL. His individual playing appears to be hampered by the extra load of captaincy.

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What distinguishes Hardik is his ability to play his best cricket when captaining, something only Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have demonstrated in the last decade. Hardik has demonstrated talents that few thought he possessed, such as his ability to make sound decisions even in the most difficult situations.

At the age of 28, the all-rounder is at the pinnacle of his career. If the IPL 2022 season is any indication, Hardik might be the man who propels Indian cricket’s next-generation ahead.