Does the best batsman make the best captain?
Normally in schools, the best student is made the class monitor or leader. The teachers feel he/she will report about what goes on in their absence to them. But the fact is that the leader need not necessarily have leadership qualities just because he is the best of his lot. Similar questions have been asked and answered several times in the past month, specially during India’s dismal performance in the Test series in England.
Virat Kohli went to England knowing that his record there was not up to his standard. His nemesis James Anderson was waiting for him and the stage was set in the first Test itself and King Kohli responded with a brilliant century. He scored 200 runs in the Test but could not get India past the line. Ground conditions perhaps had the final say in the second Test but the team selection was bewildering. The brilliant comeback in the third Test and then failures to chase tricky totals around 200 in the next two meant that India lost the series 4-1, a scoreline which Kohli said did not indicate the competition which the series actually had.
India at times also let the opposition get away from right under their nose. Though credit is due for Sam Curran and Co. for cleverly getting England off the hook, India at times looked out of sorts. There appeared to be no particular strategy for certain batsmen. The coach Ravi Shastri added fuel to the fire by saying that the third Test victory was the best overseas win, conveniently forgetting wins over England in 2002, 2007 (series victory), Australia in 2003-4, South Africa in 2006 and Australia in 2008.
Virat Kohli’s spat with Anil Kumble had created avoidable controversies. Ravi Shastri although is a good commentator and analyst has not been able to make any exceptional impact considering the results. He had also made peevish remarks when he said Indian fans revel when the India squad loses. He perhaps bears a grudge against the committee which chose not to give him the role of coach earlier.
While Kohli supports his team mates no matter what the results be, his methods have been questioned lately. Ajinkya Rahane seems to have lost his form and he also gives us a feeling of insecurity specially over his place in the side. His average in the Indian subcontinent & West Indies is close to 41 and his average everywhere else is a shade above 40. The variance is negligible whereas for others it is in the early forties and mid-twenties respectively. K L Rahul will perhaps become better with experience and the solid Murali Vijay, like Rahane, needs support from the team management. Ravi Shastri and Kohli have roles here to play.
While Shikhar Dhawan whose drought outside Asia continues and has been given an extended run, others like Vijay and Rahane do not know whether they are permanent in the side or not.
And Kohli at times does not seem to have alternate plans when his strategies do not work. When a certain bowler goes for runs, he is reluctant to make changes. Agreed that one cannot become bad overnight, but one can have bad days and the captain ought to realize that and utilize resources accordingly - a trait which M S Dhoni had. Rahane has looked in control whenever he has been leading and perhaps the leadership role can help his batting too. Without doubt, Kohli is the best batsman and is on his way to greatness with his leadership too but with tight schedules and multiple formats, he may become relaxed if someone can take the leadership role in Tests.
The batting looked completely dependent on him in Tests and it can be sapping to lead and strategize too. It is time for Ravi Shastri too to step in - he cannot continue to watch with nonchalance while games drift. If Kumble was asked to resign because he was always at Kohli’s ear, Shastri seems to be doing the opposite.
It is an old adage that England normally appoint a captain and then choose the rest of the team. Mike Brearley whose treatise on captaincy, ‘The Art of Captaincy’ is an excellent book on man management skills and strategies in cricket, admitted that he told himself that he was brought back to the England team in 1981 for his captaincy and not for batting. He was able to turn around Ian Botham’s performances and England went on to win the Ashes. Though captaincy has not affected Kohli’s performances like what happened to Sachin Tendulkar, the thought of changing the captaincy in any of the formats is certainly something which is worth considering.