Over the past few months, especially during the IPL, there has been widespread criticism of Virat Kohli's captaincy. Some of it is merited as well, and many people even said they thought Rohit Sharma would be better suited for the role due to his success in the IPL.
Those doubts have been promptly silenced after India's electric start to the World Cup. A lot of the credit has to go to the captain, whose energy is almost contagious to the rest of the team.
We can see how the bowlers and other fielders almost feed off his energy to push their own personal limits. During the game against Afghanistan, there were moments when the team needed to be lifted - and Kohli was there to provide that, which ultimately paved the way for India's win.
There also seems to be an element of maturity in Kohli's leadership in this tournament, which has only added to his aura. His gesture towards Steve Smith despite Australia being huge rivals had class written all over it, and even his press conferences have been very concise, mature and educated.
This added maturity is helping his captaincy; even when things aren't going well for Team India, Kohli has remained calm and stuck to his plans, which is not something he would do earlier. His demeanor seems to be less agitated and less panicked and more assured of his team's abilities.
And why should he not be? This Indian team has won one-day series in every country barring England (where they lost 3-2), and the depth in the bowling department is stronger than ever in Indian cricket history. His bowling changes are clicking, his team is winning and in an understated manner, and he is also making the bulk of the team's runs.
Kohli's efforts with the bat haven't been as noticeable as some of the others because he hasn't made a century yet. But it tells you a lot when you see that the man's skills aren't being talked about despite averaging 61 and scoring at a strike rate of 102.
A big Kohli innings is looming and in the game against Afghanistan, he seemed like he would get one. That should make his next opponents all the more wary of the impending storm.
If Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni changed the culture in the dressing room, so has Kohli, in his own inimitable way. Fitness plays a major role in cricket today; gone are the days one could just run one round for warming up and beat whoever they pleased and get on with it. In this day and age, you need the correct nutrition with the right workout to gain maximum performance, which in turn is converted into results.
You just have to look at India's fielding improvements over the years to see the effects of fitness. Kohli has been the catalyst in this; his success has prompted others in the team to follow his model and hit the gym regularly.
Indian bowlers are fitter than ever, and the running between wickets is now among the best in the world. The credit for all of this goes to Kohli and his mindset - a mindset that has made the Indian team play like proper athletes.
Should India win this World Cup, Kohli will be stamped as the greatest limited overs cricketer of all time, if he already isn't. The comparison with Sachin Tendulkar will be rightfully null and void because despite Tendulkar's many achievements, he never captained an Indian side to a World Cup victory.
Some would say Kohli still needs Dhoni, and it is true that Dhoni provides a much needed calming influence on him. But we can clearly see Kohli maturing and developing into a leader who is calm when required and delivers the odd moment of inspiration when required.
The road is still long and Kohli will face many more tests, especially with Australia hitting peak gear and the knockouts looming. But one thing is clear: he is the right man to lead this team, and there must be now be no questions about it.
Also read – Most catches in world cupPublished 26 Jun 2019, 13:39 IST