Test captaincy could be game changer in Virat Kohli’s career

For Kohli captaincy has come to him at the right time and age

The advisory panel announced by the BCCI grabbed the headlines last week. Which is understandable because the panelists go by the names of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, three of the greatest in Indian cricket history. But while it may be seen as a coup of sorts by the BCCI to get these three former stalwarts to pitch in with their expertise — and also prevailing on Ravi Shastri to extend his tenure as Team Director the man most crucial to the immediate future of cricket in my opinion is Virat Kohli.

To those who subscribe to the school of thought that the captain should be the most powerful entity where a team is concerned, this would be a no-brainer. Modern cricket, however, involves many stakeholders in what is essentially a captain’s turf. In saying this, I don’t mean that the advisory panel would intrude on the captain’s jurisdiction. Given their vast experience at the international level Tendulkar and Ganguly have captained India too the former greats would know how important it is for Kohli to be not weighed down by extraneous factors. But it would have been prudent of the Board to define their roles sharper to avoid any confusion.

Where Shastri is concerned, he has a more direct role to play than the three mentioned above and with certain executive powers. Given how much he valued the freedom to be his own man as captain in his playing days, I would be surprised if Shastri exceeds his brief now. Moreover, he and Kohli seem to have hit it off famously too, as was evidenced in England and Australia in the previous season, so this could be a productive partnership however long it lasts. (As things stand, Shastri is Team Director only till the Bangladesh series is played.)

All said and done, it devolves on Kohli to give the team impetus and direction in Test cricket. He has the advantage that the captaincy has come to him at the right time and age. A couple of years earlier would have been perhaps too early; a few years later could have left him blunted by the wait. At 26, he has the opportunity and time to mould his career and his team. Kohli also benefits from the fact that he inherits a young side brimming with talent. There are several players he has played with for almost a decade from the junior ranks to the senior side.

The batting looks solid and settled, there is a clutch of fast bowlers of fine, wicket-taking potential which India have usually lacked. The spin department seems somewhat hollow though, but if that gap is filled up quickly, he has a well-rounded side that should do well in all conditions. The one-off Test against Bangladesh might seem like a walkover, but Kohli would be foolish to underestimate the opposition. If anything this and the fact that India play so much of their cricket at home in the next 12 months is a great opportunity for him to stamp his authority on the side, get the players roused for the sterner challenges overseas.

He has been part of the Test side for four years, travelled for several overseas series, has had his struggles and has emerged from this as a fantastic, match-winning batsman. He should know by now what it takes to succeed in difficult conditions where skill, temperament and man-management. A mercurial personality is not quite the handicap as many imagine. It bespeaks his desire to do well though everybody is agreed that if he can channelize his aggression, he can only become a better player.

But I’ll go with Shastri’s assessment that Kohli is not a finished product yet, so we must wait and watch. The Test captaincy is a major milestone and could be a game-changer in his career. He now has the mandate to leave a lasting impress on Indian cricket and the sport. This is an opportunity that Kohli will appreciate comes to a very few.

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