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Why India's Melbourne win could be the best thing to happen to Virat Kohli

Australia vs India: 1st Test - Day 3
Australia vs India: 1st Test - Day 3
Shyam Kamal
ANALYST
Modified 29 Dec 2020, 14:41 IST
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This has nothing to do with Virat Kohli and everything to do with Ajinkya Rahane. In spite of that, I'll start with a comparison to Kohli because that's just who he is.

Kohli is a black hole so large even light cannot escape it, so speaking about the Indian cricket team would be impossible without name-dropping the K-monster. However, India could not have asked for a captain more different from Kohli after the debacle in Adelaide. Ajinkya Rahane is everything Virat Kohli is not.

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are as different as chalk and cheese

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane

While Virat Kohli is infectiously aggressive, Rahane is contagiously stoic. Where Kohli wears his heart on his sleeve, Rahane gets by with a grin or two. Where Kohli ooh-s and aah-s his bowlers for every peach of a delivery and his claps ring out around the ground, Rahane has a strange mix of Machiavelli and MSD about his curious glances.

Kohli likes to spin webs around opposition batsmen, but Rahane prefers to pepper them with pace. In other words, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are as different as chalk and cheese. In fact, the only thing that's similar about the two are their wonderful, wonderful cover drives and their grudging hatred for losing.

Australia vs India: 2nd Test Day 2
Australia vs India: 2nd Test Day 2

In fact, I'd venture as far and proclaim that Virat Kohli likes winning more than he hates losing. One can say that every time he talks about intent.

There's no intent about drawing a Test match. Playing it safe requires no intent. Those are things you'd expect from any player picked to represent the country at the international level.

However, winning and wanting to win all the time is an elite quality on its own. This is what separates elite teams from good ones. This is also what separates Virat Kohli from Ajinkya Rahane.

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Sometimes, one needs a captain like Rahane. Aggressiveness is all well and good until one is too focussed on it strangles oneself in the process. In such a scenario, one needs someone like Rahane who doesn't lose sight of the big picture.

Rahane tends to track all the little tickings going on throughout a game and doesn't hesitate to slow things down even if it means taking his foot off the opponent's throat because exhaustion starts kicking in. That requires a confidence much different to the one needed to be all-out attacking.

Everything about Virat Kohli's demeanour suggests that he'll never do that. However, everything about Rahane's indicates that he'll do all that as a second nature.

This is not a plea to remove Virat Kohli as the Test captain, but I'm sure there'll be a lot of reactionary uproars. This is not the same team he had at his disposal, and I don't think captains are to be blamed for batting collapses like the one in Adelaide. However, this is a hopeful thought that Virat Kohli integrates this part of captaining into his captaincy.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't think Virat Kohli thinks of himself as omniscient. As a batsman one sees him trying to better himself even when he has no reason to. As a captain, there's no reason to believe that he'll not do the same. So far, he's had almost no reason to.

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Virat Kohli's failures have come after phenomenal successes, and they get lost in his personal prowess. Even India's cup losses have come after such good runs and can be dismissed as 'one bad day'.

For probably the first time, Virat Kohli has left on a low only to watch his team stay back and do things differently. He gets to watch someone as different from him as possible but still managing to do something he loves the most - win.

If at all Virat Kohli is anything like the world-conquering hero like his supporters believe him to be, he could do well to come back as a different captain too.

Published 29 Dec 2020, 14:41 IST
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