Virat Kohli’s game has gone upwards several folds after taking up leadership © AFP
India are fresh on the back of creating history by not only winning the ODI series, but also the T20I series in South Africa. There is a certain X factor with this Indian side which we hadn’t seen before in the teams of the past. It is fair to say that a lot of the credit for this historic win should go to the skipper, Virat Kohli.
Cricket, unlike so many other sports, works with very different dynamics. From a captain’s stand point, especially. In football, hockey and so many other team games, most of the vital decisions and moves are worked on by the coach, while the captain just has the job of execution. In cricket, however, the variables are much, much more and keep changing with every ball.
Field changes, bowling changes, strategies, plan A, B and C – these decisions affect the game in a big way. The coach only gets involved during the break, at least at the highest level. It is quite widely accepted that the captain is the most influential person in the game of cricket. And it is right to give him the space and resources and make him feel comfortable in order for him to get the best out of the team in every single game.
The job of a modern day coach isn’t that simple either, but it is mostly before the game starts such as organising and managing the resources, training, workload management, being the pivot between selectors and players and the board, but once the game starts the it’s the captain all the way.
Once Kohli took over from MS Dhoni as a skipper, the changes in approach to captaincy were very much evident even during the infant stages. An immediate desire and intent to play five bowlers was a brave move in the positive direction which we hadn’t seen much of before. You can get a 1000 runs on the board, but then you can win a Test only if you get 20 wickets. There is an element of risk involved when you try so hard to win matches; one has to be prepared to lose.
Just as R Ashwin had mentioned recently, no matter what the situation is Kohli believed that the team could win from there and that was actually rubbing on to his team-mates. The message was loud and clear, try to win matches at any cost.
The man he took over from was no less to say the least, a revolutionary leader in his own right who did great things for Indian cricket. The styles of leadership, however, were far too contrasting. Dhoni was always a man of persistence. If he found a good cricketer he felt had value, he would persist with him and in turn providing plenty of confidence for the individual in order to go out and express himself. He would stick to his core group even if the conditions vary.
Kohli’s decisions came under a lot of scrutiny in the Test series when some key players were dropped and the team ended up losing the first two Tests. His decisions raised a lot of questions as he had done what most skippers hadn’t done before, but since the third Test, things changed incredibly for the side which seems to have hit a purple patch. By the end of the tour, he had achieved what Indian skippers hadn’t before.
It is pure supreme self confidence that makes Kohli the captain he is. That springs from the fact that he takes ownership of every decision that he has made regardless of the criticism and backs it up with performances to get the job done. The added cherry of performing at the level he is shows that he more than leads from the front, too.
Not only as skippers, even as batsmen some of the greatest have been affected by the weight of leadership on their shoulders. Being the skipper of a country where the game is a religion comes with its own responsibilities and challenges. For Kohli, contrastingly, his game has gone upwards several folds after taking up leadership, which speaks volumes about his mindsets and confidence.
It would have been foolish to expect normalcy from this dashing Delhi boy taking the cricketing world by storm. He has his eyes on placing the national flag on foreign soils this year and it is going to be no easy task. As far as 2018 goes, it is only right to expect the unexpected from Kohli. By that I mean winning abroad.