Real test for firecracker captain

Published Jan 2, 2015, 5:54 am IST
Updated Mar 30, 2019, 3:22 am IST
Virat Kohli's’ aggro factor is likely to go up in cricket

From today, it is Kohli’s Team India, at least in Tests. The angry young man is in charge again and how he takes it from here would be most interesting to watch. There has been more than a hint in the Melbourne Test that Kohli will take the fight to the opposition and the ’aggro factor is likely to go up in cricket. He is already being compared to Ricky Ponting, who on taking over the captaincy said his team would not be the old sledging and swearing. The resolve did not last long and Team Australia was back soon to its Ugly Aussie image on the field.

Kohli takes full charge not as India’s youngest captain, which Pataudi did in difficult circumstances in the West Indies. Kohli’s initiation into leading the team in the most serious format was equally difficult. Having barely recovered from the trauma of losing a close friend to the cricket ball on the field, his counterpart Michael Clarke was in even worse condition. Cricket seemed almost irrelevant when measured against life and death issues in sport in the wake of the passing of Phillip Hughes.


Given the background of pathos in which Kohli and Clarke went out to toss in Adelaide, the exchanges could not have been more unlike India-Australia cricket. As a great Test match ended with brave India just a few runs short it seemed the cricket was heading into a truly new era in which it would be more of a game and less about equating victory and defeat with life and death on the field. Clarke, the ‘Pup’ who ‘grew up’ in those extremely emotional circumstances, faced another crisis soon in an injury that could end in his never playing again.


In time to come, Kohli might reflect on the tour as a whole rather than in just how he had to turn on the verbal volleys against Mitchell Johnson. He might change as a captain in the longer term, but right now the anger issues are in the forefront. Dhoni had already showed the way in how to be aggressive in international cricket, which may have helped India toughen up and reach the very top before the slide, seemingly unending now, began in Tests.

The switchback to two captains may have come a couple of seasons too late but then Dhoni refused to see the signs, clinging to the three formats until he could take it no more. He could have handled the exit a lot more gracefully by playing at least one Test under his nominated successor. Having been with the team for the first Test when he was not fit, he should have been around to make the grand gesture of welcoming the new captain on the field in Sydney today. Bu then, when did Dhoni last care about sentiment?


If there is one lesson for Kohli, it must be to do with assimilating the positives and leaving out the negatives in the Dhoni style of leadership. It is a team game and although we know he is eminently capable of leading his men by example, Kohli must show he cares for all his men. The best generals are those who ‘have’ their men’s back in battle. He cannot afford to be so tactically weak and naive as Dhoni was when they ran the short-pitched barrage against Brad Haddin on the second morning at the MCG when India was getting ahead in the game.


To manage the bowlers is going to be his biggest challenge rather than making all the runs, which he will anyway do. Kohli has all the qualities of a leader, most of all he very badly wanted the captaincy. He cannot be the detached captain Dhoni was. And, perhaps, he must pick up his mobile when it rings with calls from his mates. As Test captain, he cannot be eternally confrontational, cannot pick fights just for the sake of it. He must choose his battles, which he will learn to do.