Home > Features >

Virat Kohli must take over as the next captain, but the time to replace MS Dhoni has not yet come

Virat Kohli must take over as the next captain, but the time to take over from MS Dhoni has not yet come

Calls for Virat Kohli (right) to succeed MS Dhoni as Test captain have been increasingly growing © PTI

Virat Kohli has widely been touted to be the next captain of India. While agreeing, Arunabha Sengupta says that pushing him into the hot seat now can have dangerous repercussions.

Virat Kohli has played 14 Tests, averages 38 and is yet to cross 1000 in the longest format of the game.

He does seem to have had a much longer and more fruitful stint than that — especially when we review his claims to the top job. Yes, 90 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) with a phenomenal average of 51 do occupy a major space in our perceptions, clouding the reason and tilting the balance somewhat dangerously as far as his Test credentials are concerned.

Kohli’s future unquestionably holds huge promise. He is phenomenally talented, can destroy attacks and when he is in full flow, can hit boundaries at will — all of which has been vividly seen in ODIs.

In Test cricket, however, he emerges as a major force mainly due to the depletion and dimming of the batting stars in the line-up. He is yet to get anywhere close to the batting brilliance in Test cricket that is generally associated with an Indian middle-order batsman since the last two decades.

He has everything going for him in that direction — talent, youth and, when not mouthing profanities after a hundred, growing maturity. But, in plain terms, he has not made his grade as a Test batsman yet. He has shown snatches of brilliance, nothing more. He has not yet obtained the consistency that is the hallmark of a good Test batsman.

It is natural for him to emerge as a successor-in-waiting after MS Dhoni decides to shed his burden, or his mantle is twisted out of his hand. When there is a litany of losses, it is very normal for the wisdom of the crowds to point towards him.

We can point towards Graeme Smith’s extraordinary success as a leader from the moment he stepped out of his cricketing cradle. But, leading South Africa and becoming the captain of India are diametrically different — they do not even merit comparison.

Kapil Dev, a man who led India when he was 23, points out the dangers crisply. “I didn’t know how to manage the seniors when I became leader at the age of 23. I didn’t know what to tell the seniors then. By the time I started learning the tricks of the trade, I was removed from captaincy. I can assure you that it is not easy to captain a side with seniors.”

Besides, by the time he became the captain at a very young age, Kapil Dev was already one of the very best all-rounders in the world, with almost 2000 runs and 200 wickets. Kohli has none of those credentials.

Kapil goes on to add, “That South African team didn’t have superstars like the current Indian team has and there is no point comparing.” What he leaves out is that in South Africa, television channels do not criticise every move of a captain. Ex-cricketers do not appear on shows as ridiculous as “Match ka Mujrim”. Millions of fans don’t follow the game with the steadfast belief that victory in cricket is their birth-right.

With the Indian team in rebuilding phase, a young and extremely promising batsman loaded with this enormous responsibility and thrown into a cauldron of boiling demands can soon end up with his cricketing future going up in flames. One would not want the future of Indian batting retiring hurt that early.

The Pataudi effect

People cite the example of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. True, he was barely 21 when he led the country for the first time — and is said to be one of the most astute captains India ever had.

This comparison in this case is even more stretched. Pataudi was a Nawab, born into royalty, in a country that still revelled in genuflection to rulers. To get allegiance — of both team and followers of the game — had much to do with his title, his palace in Bhopal and his larger than life image.

Of his first 26 Tests Pataudi lost 13 and won two — a record much worse that what Dhoni has managed in the last year and a half. If a commoner without his rank had been at the helm during that period, he would have been crucified, and torn to shreds in public.

He managed to continue and bring changes to Indian cricket, ending with nine wins and 19 losses. Kohli’s start can be as disastrous as Pataudi’s, given that the team is in a transitional stage. He does not have a regal title to fall back on when the results are negative, to blind the furious fans with flashes of his royal sceptre. The voices that now state that they don’t mind losing a few games for a better future will hardly be that patient when that eventuality does arrive.

Pataudi was a brilliant captain, hailed in spite of consecutive losses. Indian cricket is not known for such patient acceptance. The next captain who approached Pataudi’s tactical brilliance on the field never had a moment’s piece after that loss against Bangladesh crashed India out of the 2007 World Cup. Rahul Dravid decided that the pressures of the job were not worth it.

If one of the best Indian batsmen of all time surrenders to the pressures that come with the job, is it fair to push Kohli into the role even as he is finding his feet in the longest format of the game?

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Colombo

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Dhaka

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 28, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Adelaide

More

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014  at Colombo

Hong Kong won by 2 wkts

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 68 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Sydney

Australia won by 2 wickets (D/L method)

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 22, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 87 runs

Photos

Australia vs South Africa 2014, 5th ODI at Sydney

Videos

AB de Villiers: Disappointed with defeat in Australia

Cricket Australia’s marketing gimmick strips umpires of their independence

Live Updates: IPL 2013 spot-fixing and betting scandal hearing in Supreme Court: BCCI is killing the game, says Supreme Court

Australia’s top form in ODIs: Early warning for teams heading to ICC World Cup 2015

Myth Busting — did Sachin Tendulkar’s rate of scoring become slower in the second half of his career?

Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina in interesting tussle ahead of India’s Test series against Australia

Australia Australia vs South Africa Australia vs South Africa 2014 Bangladesh Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014 India New Zealand Pakistan South Africa South Africa tour of Australia 2014 South Africa vs Australia South Africa vs Australia 2014 Zimbabwe Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh 2014 Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh 2014

N Srinivasan makes quick visit to Padmanabhaswamy temple

Ranji Trophy 2014-15: Jharkhand announce probables

Steven Smith inspired by Ashes 2013 flop show

Mohammad Aamer’s return could be delayed, says ICC

IPL 2013 spot-fixing scandal: SC warns N Srinivasan of conflict of interest

IPL 2013 spot-fixing controversy: N Srinivasan increasingly cornered by Supreme Court’s observations

India vs Australia 2014: Are India as bad overseas as they are made out to be?

Cricket Australia’s marketing gimmick strips umpires of their independence

Australia’s top form in ODIs: Early warning for teams heading to ICC World Cup 2015

Myth Busting — did Sachin Tendulkar’s rate of scoring become slower in the second half of his career?

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

681 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli vs Australian cricketers

4 signs you have vitamin K deficiency

Bigg Boss 8: By fighting with Upen Patel has Sonali Raut lost her only friend in the house?

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

लारा दत्ता ने फिटनेस प्रेमियों के लिए नया ऐप लांच किया

Panasonic launches Eluga I smartphone for Rs 9,490

Anupam Kher: Modi’s development mantra will work in Kashmir

Micromax Bolt AD4500: The budget smartphone available on eBay for just Rs 5,290

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here