Virat Kohli's naysayers have it wrong - he's exactly the captain India need

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Brash Virat Kohli is roaring his way to success.

The ongoing T20 tri-series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh has given India an opportunity to rest captain Virat Kohli, with more important engagements in England and Australia later this year.

But while India’s selectors have given Kohli a break, commenters on the game haven’t.

The latest salvo came from former Australia captain Steve Waugh, who, speaking at last week’s Laureus Awards, said the India skipper’s aggression during the tour of South Africa was “a little over the top” and that Kohli needs to “rope in his excitement and emotions.”

The comments followed ex-South Africa captain Graeme Smith saying Kohli may not be India’s best long-term leadership option, after the second Test of the series, which India lost 2-1 before winning the ODI and T20 legs.

That Test saw Kohli visibly displeased with teammates over misfields, bowling errors, and batting dismissals. Trailing the series 1-0, India needed at least a draw to keep the series alive, and as the match slipped away, Kohli struggled to contain his frustration.

He was also criticised for his prickly media interactions, responding abrasively to any criticism.

But the team’s turnaround over the rest of the tour made it clear: Kohli’s leadership is as crucial to India’s success as his sublime batting.

It is definitely disheartening to see Kohli berating fielders, or getting angry when other batsmen get out. It’s also part of his job – he’s not the first captain to bark at a teammate, and he won’t be the last.

A bigger concern was the way Kohli essentially forced out Anil Kumble as India coach last year, because he didn’t match the captain’s aggression. Ultimately, this was a professional disagreement, and the two are seemingly on amicable terms – Kumble attended Kohli’s wedding reception, if that means anything – but it left a bad taste.

These are areas Kohli needs to improve. Smith is right in saying that while Kohli’s intensity is good for him, it might grate on teammates. His obsession with a narrow definition of aggression may have cost India a man like Kumble, as well as the South Africa series, as decisions not to play Ajinkya Rahane in the first two Tests and drop Bhuvaneshwar Kumar for the second Test made little sense.

But it should be remembered that Kohli’s captaincy is only three years old. He’s still growing as a leader.

He’s already immeasurably improved India. The team’s ground fielding, already among the best thanks to MS Dhoni, has risen a few notches due to Kohli’s emphasis on fitness.

Significantly, his attitude has empowered India’s rising stars. Hardik Pandya is the biggest beneficiary, while Yuzvendra Chahal, who also plays under Kohli in the IPL, and fellow wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav have thrived. The entire pace attack has benefited from his aggression.

Having Kohli's backing has done wonders for Pandya.

Having Kohli’s backing has done wonders for Pandya.

Meanwhile, the noise surrounding Kohli’s sledging is overblown. Of the series in which Kohli has captained, only last year’s series against Australia was ill-tempered – and anyone from Australia complaining about sledging is hypocrisy bordering on the ridiculous.

Waugh was the self-proclaimed champion of “mental disintegration”; another former captain, Michael Clarke, once told England’s James Anderson to “get ready for a f***ing broken arm”.

Australia are notorious for peddling the “hard but fair” line for their own sledging but bristling when anyone crosses an invisible line only they can see. Waugh’s criticism should be taken with a bucketful of salt.

What Kohli is guilty of is smashing the stereotype of the genteel Indian. He follows a generation of cricketers who were unflinchingly polite – players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman would respond to barbs with smiles and deadly batting.

That has remained the impression of how an Indian cricketer “should” behave, and there is a sense of residual colonial attitude to attacking an Indian who behaves differently.

But these cricketers were led by Sourav Ganguly – another brash leader who got under the opposition’s skin. Kohli saw how Ganguly’s attitude helped the Indian team flourish, while never sidelining the “nice guys”.

All the current captain has done is take that to another level – and take India to No1 in the Test and ODI rankings in the process. The naysayers have it wrong: Kohli is exactly the leader India need.

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National emergency in Sri Lanka hours before India start T20 tri-series

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SL captain Dinesh Chandimal.

The T20 tri-series involving India and Bangladesh in Sri Lanka got off to a rocky start with a 10-day state of emergency imposed in the country to contain communal violence.

India are in Sri Lanka to participate in the Nidahas Trophy which celebrate 70 years of the country’s independence.

However, the Sri Lankan government has been busy containing the spread of communal violence a day after Buddhist and Muslim inhabitants clashed in the central district of Kandy.

The Indian team is expected to take part in the series that begins in Colombo on Tuesday.

Government spokesperson Dayasiri Jayasekara said: “At a special cabinet meeting, it was decided to declare a state of emergency for 10 days to prevent the spread of communal riots to other parts of the country.”

“It was also decided to take stern action against people who are instigating violence through Facebook,” he added.

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BCCI, richest board in the world, fails to pay player salary for two seasons

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COA head Vinod Rai (c) and BCCI CEO Rahul Johri (r).

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) – the richest cricket board in the world – has failed to pay its domestic cricketers for two full seasons, the Indian Express has reported.

The BCCI has single-handedly transformed the sport into a multi-billion dollar industry and spawned a multitude of T20 tournaments in every corner of the world. However, it has failed to discharge its basic function of paying its players on time, mainly due to an ongoing turf war with the court-appointed Committee of Administrators overseeing the functioning of the board.

According to the report, most players in domestic cricket have received payments from their state units but still await the main portion of their income –  share of 10.6 per cent of the BCCI’s total revenue.

The relation between members of the board and the COA has broken down dramatically and it’s the players, especially those without IPL or senior contracts, who are suffering. The report says associations are waiting for the disbursement of funds after the board holds its general body meeting.

On an average, a cricketer who plays in first-class and one-day tournaments at the domestic level earns around rupees 1.2 to 1.5 million (Dh85,000) per annum.

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