Captain Am-Eureka!

My take on Kohli, the captain of the Indian cricket team.

As an Indian fan, it is sad to see how the captaincy situation is unfurling. Kohli vs Dada- seems to be a fight between two big egos. I just hope that both sit together and reach a common middle ground which takes Indian cricket forward in the coming days.

This piece is not about the current Indian captaincy fiasco. It is more about my views of Kohli as a captain. What do you think? A legend, a maverick, too egoistic, or one who let’s the record do the talking?

Let me start with the positives first. Kohli has a fantastic overall record as captain, not just among the best Indian captains, but one of the best captains ever across countries, across eras, across countries. India has been consistently no.1 in tests under him and always in and around the pinnacle in ODI’s and T20’s for most of his tenure.

I am a bit of an old school guy and what I greatly respect about Cheeku (Kohli’s nickname) is his love for test cricket. He openly states that he considers a good grind over five days the most quintessential format. This is refreshing in this era of Pyjama cricket where matches are decided over 20 overs, or sometimes even 100 balls!

Kohli has also created a legacy with India’s overseas test performance. India was always good at home, banking on its spinners. But one of the best contributions of Kohli is clearly articulating the aspiration to consistently win overseas- to then creating and supporting a pace attack that has helped us get some memorable wins abroad. Two series wins in Australia, a series lead in England- no matter of joke in times when every country wins at home, hardly anyone wins away. Bumrah, Shami and Ishant/ Siraj can match up to an Aussie or an English attack in away tests and sometimes be even better than them. Oh, I am looking forward to the South Africa away test series already!

Another thing to really like about Kohli the captain is his aggression- he would rather lose a test match going for a win rather than play out a dull draw. This is a big difference from how past Indian captains played it- they would first secure the draw and in the process miss a few wins especially overseas because of this defensive mindset. Kohli turned this around very early in his captaincy stint with his ‘I am ready to lose some to win big’ attitude. Going for an impossible win in Adelaide (where we lost chasing more than 350 on the final day) paved way for our famous wins in Gabba (even though Rahane was the captain in that test) or Lords’ this year!

The other big positive is the King’s focus on fitness. India were an average fielding side before Kohli, but over the last few years, his own high standards have rubbed off on the team, and they set the gold standard now, when it comes to fitness and fielding.

All in all, lots of positives- Kohli as a captain has really taken Indian cricket forward.

Now, for the negatives- and to be honest, there are a few in this list too.

Firstly, our record in recent global tournaments, especially knockouts, is pretty poor. We seem to win all bilateral series in white ball cricket but get stuck when it matters most! New Zealand gives us nightmares across formats and dare I say, we have officially replaced South Africa as the biggest chokers in World Cups!

As a strategist, I feel Cheeku is an average captain- we have seen him captain RCB for long enough without a single IPL trophy. Sometimes they had the best of players who are individually brilliant but together they were not a good team- the roles were not defined well enough. There was a miss between the cup and the lip, literally.

Kohli is someone who also prides in constant chopping and changing. He truly believes in a ‘horses for courses’ approach. It works at times, but also destabilizes the team and creates insecurity. So, a Karun Nair hardly got any matches even after a triple ton, a Kuldeep Yadav quickly fizzled out with no backing from the captain, and we saw inexplicable drops for Rahane, Pujara, Bhuvi and Ashwin from critical overseas test matches in last three years, where we missed them dearly!

Aggression is good but too much of anything is bad. Kohli wears his emotion up his sleeves but it is not great when he overdoes it- and he does that often! Sledging is fun when done in moderation but fist pumping and bad mouthing an opposition no.11 batsman is not good role modelling to young kids who idolize him. He also lets his ego come in the way, when pushed to a corner- we have seen that too often, lately.

Kohli has easily been the best batsmen across formats in the last decade. His record is phenomenal over the long run. 50+ average in all formats of the game- he is an absolute legend when it comes to chasing in white ball cricket. But the record in the last two years has taken a sharp dip. His last international century was more than 28 months back! Maybe he is thinking about captaincy too much which is affecting his batting?

All in all, Kohli has taken Indian cricket from strength to strength during his tenure as captaincy. His partnership with Shastri also worked well in taking us to the pinnacle, especially with some great overseas Test wins in tough places like Australia, England and South Africa. However, his batting form has sharply dipped. I feel India needs Kohli the batsman much more now than Kohli the captain.

Yes, I am suggesting that Kohli gives up test captaincy too. Let Dravid and Rohit manage the team & strategy while Kohli focuses on his bat doing the talking again! He has been stuck on 70 not out for too long, time to get his batting form back and get to 100 hundreds now.

Sayonara- Kohli, the Captain!

Welcome back- King, the Batting Legend, Reloaded!