Updated: January 17, 2022 9:48:12 am
The chaos over the successor in the immediate aftermath of Virat Kohli’s resignation from Test captaincy tells a story. Suddenly, no one seems to make the right fit. Rohit Sharma doesn’t have the required fitness, KL Rahul seems too mute to be a leader, Ajinkya Rahane can’t hold his spot, Rishabh Pant isn’t tactically dependable enough, and R Ashwin might not be temperamentally suitable for the role. History will not only be kinder to Kohli but will also show that he possessed all that is missing from the candidates who could potentially replace him. A passion for fitness, a love for Test cricket, self-confidence that puts any captain of any team in the shade, strength of temperament for a fight in the middle, and an aura to drag his team, with or without their approval, along with him. He took hard decisions, set the bar high, did what he expected of others, and led from the front. He also had the courage to break an oppressive silence when his teammate, Mohammed Shami, was targetted because of his religious identity in the wake of India’s loss to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup.
To appreciate Kohli’s achievements, look at where India was before him. It was a far cry from the lacklustre days of the Test captaincy of MS Dhoni, whose success in white-ball created a halo but couldn’t hide his weakness as a captain in the longer and tougher format of Tests. India was languishing at No 7 in Tests, had a strange reluctance to even talk about overseas goals let alone pursuing them, and displayed an alarming tendency to meander along in key moments which would unsurprisingly lead to meek surrenders. The bouncebackability and refusal to give up the fight, that has been the hallmark of Kohli’s era, was conspicuous by its absence before him. Under Kohli, the team shed their defensiveness about overseas records, and actively pursued the goal to become No 1. Kohli would say that a “special madness is needed”, a trait he successfully inculcated in his team. Inspired by his vision, fast bowlers started to break down self-limiting boundaries. Barring Jasprit Bumrah, the previous regime had all the other pacers at their disposal but weren’t able to inspire them to heights they have achieved under Kohli. Mohammed Shami found venom, Ishant Sharma was rejuvenated to kickstart a profitable second innings, Umesh Yadav tweaked his game to constantly hover around, and though Bhuvaneshwar Kumar couldn’t push his body to desired standards of the management, younger men like Mohammad Siraj and Shardul Thakur came along. Rohit Sharma discovered his true mettle as an opener, so did KL Rahul, and Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant started to spread their wings.
Kohli’s way was to set the standards, draw the line on the sand, and then watch others scramble over or fall beside it. It was hard and old school but unarguably efficient in achieving results. In the process, he would at times come across as non-empathetic, but he wasn’t too flustered by the criticism. A sense of ruthlessness on and off the field was Kohli’s way, and no one can argue with its great success.
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