Now that MS Dhoni has retired from Test Cricket, it marks the end of an era for Indian Cricket. His departure now means that Ishant Sharma is the most experienced cricketer in the squad, leaving Kohli at the helm of a very young team to steer.
Kohli faces a tall task ahead of him, and it would be really foolish to expect miraculous changes in the results. The good news for Kohli is that next in line for India is a long home season, and he can use this time to build up a team that could stand up and deliver not only in India, but even overseas. For India, the only way they can go from here is up.
Here are a few things Virat can possibly do to ease the transition :
Steps Virat Kohli Can Take As Captain
Be an inspirational figure
The oldest player in the entire team is now Murali Vijay, who before Australia’s tour of India wasn’t even a permanent fixture in the team. There isn’t any senior player left in the team for Virat to turn to for support or guidance.
There will be times when his team would need some inspiration, when the fielders will be chasing the leather, the shoulders will drop. It’s times like these when the team will need Kohli the most; he would need to stand up and inspire his troops. This is especially necessary for a young team like India, they would need their leader to stand up when the chips are down.
Saying Kohli is aggressive is a tremendous understatement. He likes to get into the opposition’s face, likes to chirp around consistently. While Kohli has been certainly walking the walk this series, he needs to learn quickly that being the captain means he has to draw a line in the sand somewhere. The line may not be clear to everyone else, but it has to be there at the back of his mind.
When Kohli engaged in a verbal spat with Johnson in MCG, in the space of next few balls, he provided Australia with a lot of chances to get him out. Not only his cage was rattled, he probably would have been robbed of a deserving century had Australia held on to their catches. Getting under the skin of the opposition is good, but not at the cost of concentration.
Virat Kohli isn’t really a submissive guy by any stretch of imagination. But assertiveness isn’t just about a few verbal jousts, or that hallmark angry stare. Assertiveness is branding yourself on the game. So far as captain, he has done it pretty well, with 3 hundreds in three innings as captain, and he has been able to convey his brand of cricket in the way he has batted and with his captaincy.
He did not shy away from pushing for a victory even when the chips were down in Adelaide. Here’s to hoping he continues to do so.
Funky Field Placings
One thing MS Dhoni was known for was his funky field placings. Whether it was standing further from stumps for Jadeja, to the leg slip at the start of the innings, Dhoni toyed with field combinations at a constant basis.
There was more than a whimsical reason for this though. Dhoni probably felt that the bowling at his disposal was inadequate to take 20 wickets, especially overseas. Kohli would be already feeling the gravity of this, as it was apparent first day of the Sydney test. India’s bowling gave away too many easy runs, and at one point Australia were scoring at more than seven runs an over. India were pushed to the back foot right from the get go.
Kohli has to innovate as well, and like his predecessor, experiment with field placings. He doesn’t have to be defensive in his approach, just a bit more innovative.
Refrain From Over Attacking
There is a line between being attacking, and being attacking to a fault. Kohli will soon realize that it’s not entirely criminal to fall back a bit, and plug away the scoring zones from time to time.
In other words, he should be situation smart, and not just attack for the sake of it. His counterpart, Steven Smith has already shown his defensive side; he actually just kept one slip for Kohli at the start of the 4th day of the Sydney test, even as he had a better bowling attack for the conditions, and a huge run cushion.
Manage The Benched Players
One thing which Dhoni probably copped up the blame for was giving a pretty long rope to players. That meant while getting into the team was pretty difficult, it also meant that a player was tested for his mettle thoroughly.
Kohli has to strike a balance between the two things, and as it was evident from his selections in the two tests he has been captain, he is not shying away from benching the under performing players. It is a good policy in theory, he just has to refrain from making hasty decisions.
Manage the Fast Bowling Resources
For the first time in Indian history, India has two bowlers who can ball over 140 kmph on a consistent basis in the form of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. They have been bowling fast, and their average speed has been quicker than Mitchell Johnson this series.
Despite their speeds though, they have been mostly erratic, and have given away a lot of easy runs. Since such fast bowlers are hard to come by in India, proper guidance has to be given to these youngsters, and they can get only better with experience.
What Indian fans would also remember is that there have been many pacers who came into the side with all guns blazing, but soon faded away as their pace and bite reduced. If India has to win tests overseas, these bowlers have to be monitored very carefully.
Believe in Himself
Last, but most important of all, he has to be sure of himself. People may call him a spoiled brat, a nuisance or whatever they wish, but so far that very thing has worked for him. He is a very gifted cricketer, and is already on his way into cricket’s history books.
Being an Indian captain is no easy feat, and he has a billion expectations to shoulder. From the first few innings it is already evident that captaincy is bringing out the best in his batting, and here is to hoping that it continues. Indian cricket will be thankful if that happens.