Kohli the Batsman better than Kohli the Captain
Kohli has it in him to be a good captain if not a great one.
If only Virat Kohli the captain could lead the side as well as Virat Kohli the batsman! That’s a question which came to mind at the conclusion of the India - England Test series. As a batsman he is without a peer. Even among so many great players he stands out with the sublime cricketing skills that have seen him average almost 54 in Tests, 58 in ODIs and nearly 50 in T-20 internationals. As a captain though he could do much better.- both on and off the field.
Kohli is one who wears his emotions on his sleeve. He makes it clear what he thinks of a particular decision or situation. While there is nothing wrong in displaying emotion per se it can be quite distasteful when it is overdone. And this is what Kohli is guilty of. As a young player he was way out of control mouthing obscenities freely and making unseemly gestures. He has mellowed a wee bit since then and one reckoned that after becoming captain he would mellow further. This unfortunately has not happened.
It is quite likely that his emotions sometimes get the better of him and clouds his judgement which is why on and off the field he has been way off his mark as a leader in the just concluded series. It could be taken as unjustifiable to berate the captain for a loss in a Test series when the batting has repeatedly failed, the bowling has faltered at crucial junctures in allowing the opposition to recover from a precarious position and the slip catching has not been up to the mark. But as captain Kohli has to take his share of the blame. As the saying goes the buck stops with the man at the helm. And he was in charge of the No 1 ranked team. .
It must be said that Kohli’s bowling changes were faulty at times none more so than when he allowed Ravi Ashwin to continue for long spells at Southampton in England’s second innings when it was clear that the off spinner was not at his best. But more than his bowling chances it was his field placements that were at fault. Quite often particularly during crucial stages he allowed things to drift by setting a defensive field when a more aggressive approach would have been in order. Being an aggressive batsman and a personality full of agro this was surprising.
Then of course were the faulty selections, like dropping Cheteswar Pujara for the first Test, selecting Kuleep Yadav on a fast bowler’s paradise at Lord’s, picking a not fully fit Ashwin for the fourthTest , not giving RavindraJadeja a break earlier and not giving the prodigiously talented Prithvi Shaw the big break through the opening batsmen were failing repeatedly. Coach Ravi Shastri among others might have been part of the tour selection committee but again the buck stops with the captain.
Speaking of Shastri he is given to bombastic statements and he clearly went overboard by saying that the current Indian team was the best travelers over the last 15 years. The facts were clearly against him and deservedly he received a lot of flak from those in the know of such things. Kohli on his part could not go against Shastri’s views and this saw him get into a slanging match with a journalist who wanted his opinion on what the coach had said. Kohli doesn’t take very well to criticism. He has to learn to take it in his stride for in his position he is bound to be the target – fairly or unfairly. He cannot afford to be testy at press conferences. To the journalist in question he could have said ''no comment’’ or ''I wouldn’t like to answer that question’’. That is much better than displaying petulance which does not befit the national cricket captain. . .
Kohli has it in him to be a good captain if not a great one. He is well aware of the demands of the modern game, he has the team behind him and leading from the front is second nature to him. He just has to improve tactically, learn a bit more about the finer points of the game and not go overboard emotionally. He does not let personal likes and dislikes interfere with his strategy which is a good thing. But he is more a textbook captain when he could be a bit more intuitive, even adventurous. If he could bring a bit of his flair associated with his batting into his captaincy he could achieve better results.