By Hardik Rajgor Dec. 06, 2018
The first day of the first Test in Adelaide might not have gone India’s way, but it’s a long tour with a lot of cricket still to be played. Virat Kohli is at the top in every aspect of his game. However, there is still an area where he can improve — captaincy.
irat Kohli is the best batsman in the world. This is no longer an opinion; it is a fact. The statistics and the records speak for themselves. He is the best batsman in Test cricket and the shorter formats. Whether it’s a green top or a dusty track, seam bowling or spin, bright sunshine or overcast conditions, setting a target or chasing one, whether the team is playing in India or overseas, international or franchise cricket, King Kohli has conclusively established his ruthless dominance with the willow. Commentators, critics, and fans have run out of adjectives to describe his feats — his ability, planning, and execution with the bat. He is the Roger Federer of batting.
Kohli has the world at his feet. He is the darling of the country, scores runs at will, has brands chasing him, and is India’s richest sportsperson. Last December, he had a dream wedding that gave the world Instagram envy. (At least, until DeepVeer started flooding everyone’s timelines.) One wouldn’t be wrong to believe that he is at the very top in every aspect of his game, from diet to fitness to skill. He is obsessed with success, he’s the “perfectionist” of cricket, if you will. However, he is no God (yet), and there is still an area where the Indian captain has room for improvement, an area that can make or break teams — captaincy.
Kohli’s problem has been India’s eternal problem — winning away from home. We are the No 1 Test side today under Virat Kohli, winning 24 and losing nine out of 42 tests. But our dominance has been restricted to Asia and the Caribbean, as Team India struggled this year in both England and South Africa, only managing to win a Test each on both tours. But as a wise man once said, “Apne ilake mein kutta bhi sher hai.” The general belief in cricketing circles is that India are flat-track bullies and do well only at home and in Asian conditions. Much like his predecessors MS Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly, Kohli has done exceptionally well in Asia and the Caribbean, but he and his men have struggled to win against quality opposition like England and South Africa, winning only two Tests and losing six out of the last eight games. As India and Australia kick off the Test series in Adelaide, Kohli would have it at the back of his mind that India has never won a Test series in Australia.
Kohli’s moment of sweet revenge has arrived.
Image credit: Getty Images
And there isn’t going to be a better chance to change that statistic and enter the record books. Something Kohli has always been gunning for.
Australian cricket has been in turmoil. Post Sandpaper Gate, three players were suspended, followed by the suspension of the coach, the CEO of the board, departure of the chairman and sacking of two executives. Cricket Australia (CA), over the past few months, saw more exits than the main cast of Game of Thrones. To make matters worse, the relationship between Cricket Australia and the player’s association (ACA) has turned sour over a pay dispute. In Steve Smith and David Warner, Australia have lost the heartbeat of their batting line-up. They have also pledged a “cultural change” in the way they will be playing cricket, whatever that means. While Australia will still be a formidable team at home, the fact that they are a fractured unit cannot be missed.
Over the years, India vs Australia has become the defining contest in cricket, as prestigious as an India-Pakistan clash, or The Ashes. The battles on the field have produced some of the most breathtaking moments in the sport’s history — Sachin and Warne’s magnificent duel at the Chepauk, or VVS Laxman’s magical 281 in Kolkata. Fireworks have not been restricted to the bat and ball, with tempers flying high and heated words being exchanged, from the infamous “monkeygate” to the bizarre “brain fade”.
The stage has been set for Kohli to make history once again.
Even Captain Kohli was furiously taunted by the Australian team and the media, on his previous tour in 2014. India lost the four-match series 2-0 but Kohli had captured the public imagination with his fine batting performances and stirred the pot with his aggression on the field. He did to the Australians what they had been doing to everyone else, and they did not take it well. His behaviour was debated and discussed at length Down Under: He has been called “the biggest sports jerk of the week” and the “Donald Trump of world sport” by the Australian media. FOX Sports ran a poll for the sports villain of the week where Kohli was compared with animals like a panda, puppy and a kitten.
But when it came to the game, India failed to dominate and the Australians basked in glory.
Kohli’s moment of sweet revenge has arrived. India has a fairly balanced unit on this tour and Australia are missing some big names. The first day of the first Test might not have gone India’s way but it’s a long tour and there are many crucial sessions of cricket still to be played.
Fox Sports Australia released an interesting promo for the Ind-Aus series, trying to make it a Virat vs Australia contest. It may sell tickets and generate viewership, but cricket still fundamentally remains a team game. Squad selection, bowling changes, and field placements will be as decisive as the front-foot drives and piercing square cuts. Kohli will be tested, not only as batsman but also as captain. Big grounds and different conditions combined with media pressure and bitter rivalry can get to the best of people. Every move, decision, and press conference will be keenly observed, analysed and critiqued by over a billion people. It has been four years since Kohli last toured Australia as captain, after being handed the baton in Adelaide where MS Dhoni was ruled out due to injury. But with time and experience comes wisdom.
The stage has been set for Kohli to make history once again – to be the first Indian captain to win a Test series against Australia in Australia, to have his legacy solidified and name etched in the record books. It could be the real feather in his cap, the mother of all achievements. The Australian team is definitely not in top form; the question remains whether Kohli can deliver the knockout punch.