When Virat Kohli, fielding at extra cover, wore one on his jaw in his team’s clash against KKR last week, it was almost poetic justice. Just two balls earlier, Kohli had lambasted Ashok Dinda, who was earlier fielding in that position, for having let a ball go past him. The RCB skipper replaced Dinda in the covers, as if he wanted to show his fast bowler how it was done, only to be left writhing in pain.
Firstly, you wondered what Dinda was doing at extra-cover in the first place as early as in the fifth over. And then about Kohli blowing his top in the glare of the IPL flashlights and chastising his teammate for a not-so-big mistake.
In RCB’s next match, it was umpire Billy Bowden’s turn to face Kohli’s wrath after a dubious lbw decision. That is before he spent the rest of Bangalore’s innings sulking in the dug-out. Kohli has won admirers around the world for his aggression and passion on the field. But not when he directs it against his own players and officials.
Having gotten used to seeing MS Dhoni forever in control of proceedings and his emotions, for close to a decade now, this is not what you want to see in the heir apparent. The other Indian captains in the fray haven’t inspired much confidence either during IPL7.
After KKR’s Super Over defeat to Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday, another Delhi player displaying a lack of grace. Gautam Gambhir, at one point tipped to be Dhoni’s successor, abruptly walked away during the post-match interview with Pommie Mbangwa still mid-sentence. That after Gambhir had spent the dying moments of the match, clutching his face and exuding the kind of nervous energy that a captain wouldn’t want to rub off on the rest of the team.
Then you have Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, both of whom have come across as reluctant IPL captains. With Sharma, it’s difficult to see how much of a say he even has with team decisions, considering the plethora of cricketing behemoths ‘mentoring’ the Mumbai Indians. And Dhawan has not looked at ease holding the reins at Sunrisers, especially in his handling of Dale Steyn, often letting the likes of Darren Sammy take tough calls.
This is not to say that Kohli and Dhawan will not go on to lift the IPL title in a month’s time. They just might. Gambhir and Sharma already have done it in the past. But they will still remain a few paces off Dhoni, especially when it comes to how they carry the weight of captaincy.
(Bharat is a principal correspondent based in Mumbai)