Captaincy is a double-edged sword. The more you are out there, the more criticism you take if you suffer failure.
Among recent cricket captains, none have been more ‘out there’ than a certain Virat Kohli. Known for his aggressive demeanour and fiery exchanges, Kohli is every bit as explosive on the pitch as he is off it. Runs just run themselves at the sight of his bat, and drag hapless bowlers with them too.
But if your writer is being modest, Kohli Is the cricketing equivalent of Harry Kane. All that skill, all that talent, all that star power, and unfortunately or otherwise, all empty in the trophy cabinet.
That trophy cabinet’s volume (or lack thereof) is not on him at all. Cricket may be a gentleman’s game, but it is also a team game. Under his captaincy, Team India have embarrassed England and Australia, but have fallen short when something was on the line.
Humanity has made a leader someone who is just supposed to take the blame whenever their team falls short. Unwittingly or otherwise, that is the world we live in, and the former World Number One is also a victim of such thinking.
Every ICC competition has seen Kohli’s men walk in as one of the favourites, but exit due to one of two reasons – “we were unlucky” or “they were the better team”. It is acceptable once or twice, but when you have that royal treasury of a squad at your disposal, fans are not unreasonable for expecting a trophy.
Of course there were players on those days who let the team down. By all accounts, Kohli is less than 10% of his team, so the math suggests that he alone can’t significantly cost his team a game. But when you are the leader, despite how harsh society’s perceptions, some blame falling on you is warranted.
Let’s be completely honest here – for all his achievements, Kohli is no M. S. Dhoni. Captain Cool was a top-quality batsman AND made India winners on the grandest stages. The same goes for Sourav Ganguly, who was far from the best player in that Indian team, but led by example and made India proud.
Objectively, Kohli is a better batsman and possibly player than the two retired legends. However, if this is a captaincy contest, he is not ranking more than third in a three-horse race. This is not because India got battered by Pakistan and humiliated by New Zealand, but because of a worrying trend during his time at the helm.
Wins or WINS?
Under Kohli, India has annihilated every single team on the planet and broken multiple records. The captain himself has been instrumental in many of those victories. A world-class player like him is simply a joy to watch, and when he is in the mood, the game is over before it even starts.
But why is that whenever India step onto a stage where a trophy is on the line, they choke and lose? When this happens once, it is bad luck. But when it happens again and again, it is no longer luck, but a trend/pattern/habit. Is Kohli the reason for it? Absolutely not. Is he partly the reason? Maybe so.
It’s not even the fact that he has a tendency to throw in the towel when he gets tactically outclassed by his counterpart. It is the fact that there are other players waiting in the wings who could potentially be the captain of the team. Kohli being captain of one format is still okay, but him being captain in all three (and RCB) is just bonkers. Read that however you want.
Rohit Sharma, K. L. Rahul, and even Rishabh Pant could be Indian captain. Whether they would be a good captain is another matter, but the point here is that Kohli may be taking away the limelight from players who may need it.
The best example would be the Mumbai Indians captain, Rohit is a multiple-time IPL winner, but he’s at the age where it’s perhaps too little too late.
With Kohli stepping down from T20 captaincy and possibly ODI soon, it is the end of an era. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he has been a good captain, but at this moment in time, people are either on the fence or at the point where they want change.
However, the question to be addressed is very simple – if not Kohli, then whom?
First of all, Kohli should remain Test captain barring some calamitous form. But for the limited overs format, if not him, there has to be a readymade replacement. Unfortunately, the fact that there is no clear-cut answer sums India up in a nutshell.
Rohit is the most obvious choice and has assumed the role, but he would be a stopgap captain given his age. At a time when India has to think long-term, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see people turn on the opener if initial results are not promising.
K. L. Rahul? God forbid seeing negative strike rates and the man playing like he does for Punjab. In all seriousness, Rahul is a left-field choice, but not a popular one.
That leaves some young guns like Rishabh Pant. The sledge king has captaincy experience under his belt, but is still raw and a little bit away from leading an entire country. There is also this stigma of the best player being the leader, and for all his zest and flashy style of playing, Pant isn’t the best in the team.
Whether you like it or not, someone who ticked all the proverbial boxes was Kohli. Now that he has stepped down, India will need to get this right. Failure to do so will probably result in a slip down the cricket world order.
In the meantime, for all the gripes we have with Kohli, we must not forget the fact that his team was a record-breaking juggernaut who made winning a habit. No matter his lack of success success, there were a bucketload of great moments he gave his country, and for that, he needs to be applauded.
And who knows which Kohli will turn up now that the skipper weight is off his shoulders? If it is anything like the prime Kohli we know, teams will be cowering in fear.