New Delhi: It was a decision that not many saw coming but once it did, Jasprit Bumrah's elevation as India's ODI vice-captain, albeit as a stop-gap arrangement, seemed a perfectly justified reward for his terrific all-format consistency.
It won't be surprising if the Chetan Sharma-led selection panel felt inspired by Pat Cummins' recent elevation as Australia's captain while making this choice, a very interesting one considering that two proven IPL captains -- Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant -- were in the mix to become K L Rahul's deputy for the bilateral series against South Africa.
If sources close to the selection committee are to be believed, Bumrah being elevated as vice-captain is a message to both Pant and Iyer to show supreme all-format consistency, something that the Gujarat fast bowler has mastered ever since he burst into the international scene back in 2016.
"Look, this is just for one series as Rohit (out injured) is almost certain to come back during the home leg against West Indies and Sri Lanka. Then KL will again become the deputy," a BCCI source privy to selection matters told PTI.
"However, the selectors wanted to reward Jassi (Bumrah's nickname) for his consistency as well as cricket brain. That's why he was picked ahead of Pant and Iyer," he said.
Former chairman of selectors M S K Prasad said that since this was vice-captaincy for just one series, it was an easy decision for selectors.
"Jasprit is a very sensible young man with a lot of rationality. So why not reward him? I like this decision as why can't we make a fast bowler captain, If he is doing well in all formats?" Prasad said, when asked how he viewed the decision.
"Unless you give him an opportunity to be a part of the leadership group, you won't know what to expect of Jasprit. But having said that, I would also say that possibly since it was a decision on vice-captaincy for one series, it was an easy call.
"Had it been for captaincy with both Rohit and Rahul unavailable, it could have been different," the former Indian keeper-batter added.
While Iyer guided Delhi Capitals to their maiden IPL final in 2020, Pant, who was his deputy, took over the reins in 2021 and lost in the second Qualifiers after finishing on top during the round robin stage.
According to Prasad, the IPL leadership is different from leading the national side and being successful in one isn't an indicator that the player will be successful in the other.
"In IPL, a team might have four to five guaranteed superstars with different drifts and pulls. Then you need to manage at least a couple of domestic players, who may or may not withstand the pressures of franchisee cricket.
"In the Indian team, you have at least 12-13 top class talented fellows, who know their exact roles at the biggest stage. Captaining India is at times easier," Prasad said.
So why does he think that Pant and Iyer were overlooked even if it was for one series?
"I think it's got a lot to do with the fact that Iyer is now coming in after surgery and also Pant needs to be a bit more consistent in the white-ball format," he pointed out.
"Also this my assumption that since till 2023, Rohit will remain the captain and KL will be his deputy, making Pant or Iyer vice-captain now means that you give them an idea that they are in leadership mix which might not be the case," he said.