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Virat Kohli has done the right thing

By SUDHIR BISHT
January 17, 2022 08:54 IST
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Is Kohli not a great captain in spite of so many wins? My answer is, yes, declares Dr Sudhir Bisht.

IMAGE: Virat Kohli. Photograph: BCCI.

Virat Kohli called up the secretary, BCCI, on Saturday and expressed his wish to resign from the leadership of the country's Test team.

From all accounts, it appears that his wish was granted almost immediately.

Most cricket analysts had seen it coming, especially after the loss to an inexperienced South African team, in thethree-Test match series.

Kohli had earlier resigned from the T20I (Twenty20 International) captaincy. He was later relieved from the leadership role in one day internationals as well.

Kohli, everyone knows, has the best record as India's Test captain. Under his captaincy, India played 69 Tests and won 40, lost 17, and drew 11. This gives him a 59% winning percentage of all the matches that India played under him.

He led the Indian team in 25 Test series, winning 18 of them. This is fantastic by any standards and gets more glorified if one takes into account the fact that under Virat, India defeated the West Indies in the West Indies twice, 2-0; defeated Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka 3-0, in 2017; and defeated Australia in Australia 2-1 in 2018-2019.

Under Kohli, the Indian team leads England 2-1 in the unfinished series in England.

Another very important record is that the Indian team has not lost any home series under his captaincy, winning 11 out of 11!

 

So, there is statistics galore to prove how successful Virat Kohli has been as captain against all teams, even on foreign grounds.

His inability to win the series against South Africa may be the only blip in his career.

Virat's winning percentage of 59 is very close to Ricky Ponting's winning percentage of 62. It is better than Graeme Smith's winning percentage of 49.

Of course, Steve Waugh, the peerless Australian leader, has a winning percentage of 72.

That Virat Kohli has an enviable record as Indian captain is an established fact. The statistics don't lie. However, reading the raw data and a detailed analysis of that data, are two different things.

Fans of Virat Kohli believe that India's ascendancy in world cricket is largely due to him as captain. This is an erroneous conclusion, bereft of serious deep-dive into the data.

Did India win under Virat because of his leadership skills, or because Virat had the good fortune of leading a team that consisted of greats like Virat, the batter, himself?

Virat took over Test captaincy from M S Dhoni who captained India in 60 Tests and had a winning percentage of 45.

Before Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly too had a winning percentage of 43.

The captaincy Test records of Dhoni and Ganguly are, of course, inferior to that of Virat Kohli, but in terms of lifting India from a winning percentage of 12 under Kapil Dev, 29 under Mohammad Azharuddin and 16 under Sachin Tendulkar, credit should be given to Ganguly who raised India's Test record by a staggering 27 percentage points from the record that he inherited.

Ganguly captained India in 49 Tests and is seen as the original transformational leader of the Indian cricket team. Dhoni and Virat built on the solid foundation laid by Ganguly.

In terms of overall leadership impact under Ganguly, India won 11 Tests in 28 played overseas. Under his captaincy, India won the NatWest Trophy and ICC Champions Trophy in 2002.

Under Dhoni, the Indian team won all the ICC trophies -- the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, the ODI World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013. These are only limited over trophies, but the Test series championship had not started during the reigns of Ganguly and Dhoni.

My limited point here is that India hasn't won any ICC trophy under Kohli, and the acid test of captaincy comes in the big ticket tournaments.

A team of prolific run-scorers and wicket-takers needs that extra support from the leader to keep their heads level in championship events.

Steve Waugh scored his only away-from-home century in ODIs in the epic Super 6 stage of the 1999 World Cup against South Africa.

When Waugh arrived at the crease, Australia were 3 down for 48 and had to chase 271 to win.

Waugh urged a young Ricky Ponting to play aggressively and guided him to an important score of 69.

Waugh, the captain, then played with Michael Bevan and Tom Moody to score an elimination-saving century. He guided his teammates throughout his stay at the crease. This was leadership in motion.

Kohli's CV will miss this kind of an achievement, in spite of his storied reign as captain.

Does the fact that India lost to New Zealand in the ICC Test World Championship final in 2021 and to a not so strong South African side earlier last week, take the sheen off the captaincy record of Kohli? Of course, yes.

A winning team is as much about great team members as it is about great captains.

Teams that win most times have very able leaders, but they also have many great performers.

During Kohli's captaincy, India had outstanding performances from Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, K L Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and even Rishabh Pant in the away series. The best performer with the bat, under Kohli, was he himself!

When these batters failed or were unavailable, the team performance melted down.

A great team performance does not hinge upon great captaincy alone. In the long run, a captain is only as good as his team.

Great captains with poor teams can be successful, by a narrow margin, but only occasionally. They can't achieve sustained spectacular performances.

Under his captaincy, Virat scored 20 centuries and 18 half centuries, a staggering record by any standards.

His batting average in home series in 31 Tests has been an astoundingly high 68 runs. Even his away average is an impressive 46 runs.

Virat the batter has aided Kohli the captain more than anyone else. His away record includes 10 centuries, which is equal to the number of centuries he scored at home when he captained his team.

His half-century record on foreign grounds, as captain, is even greater than his record at home grounds -- 12 against 6.

So, Kohli the captain has been very fortunate to have the brilliant Kohli the batter pulling it off for his team.

Take Kohli the batter away from the cricket team and you will have a dismal record.

I know that Virat Kohli's 44 million followers on Twitter (next only to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and superstar Amitabh Bachchan) will find it funny that I am dividing him into two persons -- the batter and the captain. But it is necessary to do so to know who did more for the team, the batter or the captain.

Clearly, Virat the batter has come to the rescue of Virat the captain on many occasions.

I am also aware that Virat Kohli has always led by example.

He has scored massively, taken brilliant catches and has been a role model in fitness.

But I think captaincy goes beyond setting an example.

Captaincy is also about leading a team of happy individuals towards a goal.

Kohli has missed the ultimate goal of winning an ICC trophy in his seven long years of leadership. Could it be that under his leadership the players perform under stress on big occasions?

Isn't he the guy who is either highly aggressive when his bowlers are bowling and overly euphoric when they get that wicket?

When did you last see a smiling Kohli pat the back of a dejected Ashwin in encouragement when he was not getting wickets?

Kohli has been lucky to have in his team some of the best batters of his times. Of course, no other batsman comes near Kohli in terms of the sheer number of runs scored, but guys like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Pujara, Rahane and Rahul have played their part, too.

Kohli has also been very lucky to have the services of the best seam bowling attack in the history of Indian cricket.

The fact that India has Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Siraj, all genuine quickies, should not be lost on anyone.

This is a pace attack that is beyond doubt the best pace attack in the world.

Bumrah and Shami have been compared to some of the best opening pairs in the world by the great Dennis Lille of Australia.

The Test records of Bumrah and Shami compare favourably with the records of the great Pakistani pair of Wasim Akram and Waqar Yunus.

In the spin department, too, India has the world's best attack. Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel are simply the best in business on Indian tracks.

The Indian cricket team also has seen some outstanding fielders in its ranks.

So, with such an outstanding bunch of fellow cricketers, it is natural for Kohli's team to have won so many Test matches in India and on foreign shores.

It is therefore all the more surprising that under Kohli, India lost to New Zealand in the ICC Test Championship final.

Does it mean that Kohli is not a great captain in spite of so many wins under his belt? My straightforward answer is, yes.

Every leader needs to inspire his juniors and his peers on the field.

Virat is an aggressive leader who feels great when he deals with youngsters in the team.

The new members are eager to latch on to every word the captain speaks. Virat likes them if they become his disciples, and his pupils like him too, safe in the warmth and comfort of their leader's nest.

But Virat expects the same one hundred percent compliance of instructions from the very experienced set of players too.

He shows his emotions if a senior doesn't dive to stop a run or if an older player is not able to chase the ball as fast as the younger ones do.

It is well known that some seniors like Ashwin, Rohit and Rahane were not very comfortable with their skipper's autocratic style.

Virat's over the board aggression hasn't worked to the benefit of India's cricketing image as well.

His utterances on the stump microphone when Dean Elgar won a review of the LBW decision against Ashwin in the third Test, show the unpleasant side of Kohli's aggressiveness.

It will be overlooked if his bat is in blazing form or if India continues its winning ways, but it will get him brickbats, as is happening now, when he fails with the bat and the team starts to lose.

I believe that Virat Kohli has done the right thing by stepping down.

He was successful because of his great team members and because of his own solid contribution with the bat.

He can now go back to concentrate on his batting and go on to score a century of centuries.

He has been unsuccessful, as captain, in winning an ICC trophy for his country or even an IPL trophy for his franchise.

He can now do that by continuing in the team, without the burden of captaincy.

He still remains the greatest batsman of the last one decade, and he has over another half a decade to go before he hangs up his cricketing gloves.

Meanwhile, my vote for the next Indian Test captain is for Rishabh Pant, but this dissertation is for another day. Incidentally, Sunny Gavaskar also has the same point of view on Pant!

Here's wishing Virat the very best for next half-decade of his Test playing career. He is a magician with the bat, and everyone wants to be spellbound by it.

Dr Sudhir Bisht, author and columnist, writes from New Delhi.

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