Has the time come for Virat Kohli to lead India in all three formats?
This is the burning question that every Indian cricket fan is facing now. Yes, we can never doubt what MS Dhoni has done for Indian Cricket, both as a player and as a skipper. But the results in 2015 have shown that the man with the Midas’ touch has started to look a bit jaded now. The very fact that he is not playing the longer version of the game means that he has to take prolonged breaks from international cricket. Meanwhile, Kohli, who is leading the Indian side in Tests has shown a penchant for the captain’s job and the results have strengthened the notion that India’s premier batsman is enjoying the leadership role.
India in Tests and ODIs- poles apart
India are currently ranked as the number one Test side in the world. On the other hand, in ODIs, India have had a forgettable last year. They haven’t won a single match in the bilateral series in Australia yet. There was the demoralizing loss in Bangladesh followed by a home series loss against South Africa. India also lost the T20 series against South Africa. In between there was a series win against the minnows Zimbabwe but that side was led by Ajinkya Rahane.
Meanwhile, Kohli has lead India to a series win in Srilanka after 23 years and then put an end to the 5-year winning streak of South Africa away from home. Kohli was vocal about his support of out-and-out wicket taking bowlers and constantly maintained that they are the reason behind India winning matches. Meanwhile, Dhoni’s comment about Rahane in the media about his inability to rotate the strike in middle overs did give an insight to Dhoni’s mindset. The media interactions in which Dhoni made comments like he want bowlers who are ‘line and length bowlers’ showed that the Test captain and the ODI skipper are walking different lanes. Dhoni looked jaded and out of answers after every loss.
The series down under- an example
In the ongoing series in Australia, it is apparent that Dhoni has lost his mojo. He is not the finisher he used to be. India are constantly losing games and Dhoni has been unable to come up with answers. In every interaction after the match, he talks about the process, but he needs to understand that after a time it’s about results. He has been harping on the word process for a bit too long now. It’s been almost a year since the last World Cup and India does not have anything to show as a result in the shorter form of the game. India’s batsmen are getting all the hundreds but it’s Australia who is winning the games.
In the same period, Virat has led India to the number one position in Tests and he is by far the leading batsman of the team. He is respected well by his peers in the team and in the opposite teams also. He is being looked as someone who will take Indian cricket forward. He is young, loves to lead from the front and time and again he has made it clear that he loves any kind of challenge on the cricket field and captaining the Indian team is one of them.
Kohli’s era beckoning
So the question is should Dhoni be replaced by Kohli as the leader across the three formats. Past stalwarts like Jacques Kallis and Ian Chappell have come strongly in support of Kohli being the leader in all forms of the game. He is aggressive, he is confident, and he leads from the front which Dhoni has been unable to do at the moment. If Dhoni is relieved of his captaincy duties, maybe he can then focus just on his batting and be the finisher that India is looking for. He may start to enjoy the game once again. Cricket is a religion in India and constant media attention and that from the fans does not make leading the side easy. Your every move is questioned and criticized.
The next 50-over world cup is in 2019 and it would be better if Kohli is handed over the reins of the Indian cricket team after the 2016 T20 World Cup so that he has enough time to make the changes he wants in the team. The team should also get enough time to acclimatize to the captaincy style of Kohli which is very different to Dhoni’s style. In his short tenure, Kohli has shown that he can deliver the goods. Is it time for the Kohli-era in Indian cricket? One might not be surprised if it happens after the World T20.