CHENNAI: Ajinkya Rahane is in elite company. The list of captains sacked midway through an IPL season include Sourav Ganguly, Angelo Mathews and MS Dhoni. The likes of Ricky Ponting and Gautam Gambhir can be added, if one takes into account those who ‘stepped down’ due to non-performance and handed over charge after a few games.
It shows how unforgiving the most rewarding T20 league is. Steve Smith replacing Rahane as captain of Rajasthan Royals is the latest incident where franchise officials have taken such a drastic step.
Those who follow IPL are so used to it that the news hardly created a stir. In the last five years, there have been at least three similar cases, with the same Smith replacing Dhoni as skipper of Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016 being the most famous one. Coaches, too, have had to pay a similar price on several occasions.
Sacking of captains and coaches show the importance of results in IPL. Team owners don’t mind splurging cash to hire what they think is the best, but they also demand tangible returns. In other words, they want accountability. So when the results are dissatisfactory, they do not hesitate to take harsh decisions. This is a characteristic of professional sports. Football leagues have many examples of coaches handed the pink slip halfway into a season.
Given that it comes down to how one meets the standards that this job demands, Rajasthan’s decision was on the cards. The team had lost six of its eight matches and although they had made the playoffs last year under Rahane, chances of a revival this term were looking slim. Under the circumstances, it was natural that the team owners would eventually look at someone like Smith, who had led the Pune franchise to a second-place finish after taking over from Dhoni in 2016.
“Ajinkya Rahane did a fantastic job in leading the team to the playoffs last year, however, the franchisee now thinks a fresh approach is needed to bring their 2019 campaign back on track. Steve has always been part of the leadership team within RR and Rahane will continue to be a key voice in the side, therefore the Royals see this as a small restructuring process to secure the results required to move up the table,” said the Royals statement.
The rate at which captains and coaches lose their jobs is perhaps higher in IPL than in international cricket, which explains the difference in dynamics at play. Results are expected in both, but the investment being much higher makes these tasks more demanding in IPL. Cricket boards who employ coaches and appoint captains do no spend millions every year. They don’t feel the pinch as much as the IPL team owners do when their side keeps losing on a regular basis.
So Rahane’s ouster as captain is more in sync with things than not. This is the flip side of highly-paid and result-oriented jobs, not limited to sports. Get a premium to perform, but perish if you don’t, is the name of this game.
Captaincy changes in last six years
2013 PuneAngelo Mathews made way for Ross Taylor & Aaron Finch.
2013 Mumbai Rohit Sharma replaced Ricky Ponting.
2016 Pune MS Dhoni was replaced by Steve Smith.
2016 Punjab urali Vijay took over from David Miller.
2018 Delhi Gautam Gambhir quit, Shreyas Iyer came on.