Virat Kohli (left) and Steven Smith were the leading run-scoers for their respective sides © Getty Inmages
Virat Kohli (left) and Steven Smith were the leading run-scorers for their respective sides © Getty Images

Steven Smith and Virat Kohli, the two captains who took over responsibilities during the series, have had similar fortunes during India’s tour of Australia 2014-15. Australia may have walked away with the series, but India walk away with their positives as well — none more compelling than their young captain. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about Smith’s and Kohli’s domination in the series and what it holds in prospect for the two teams.

It was a tale of two young batsmen with the fire to excel; men touted as captains in the making — ready to take the world by storm. While one, an appointed successor, was handed the leadership due to an abrupt retirement, the other was thrust into the role with an eye on the future. Virat Kohli and Steven Smith began a new phase in their respective careers. Having taken over the mantle of leadership, they excelled with the added responsibility and brought their best into the middle. Both India and Australia finished the series with an big ticks in the boxes as far as their young captains are concerned.

Record-breaking run!

Smith had a record-breaking time during this series. He became the first man after Jacques Kallis to hit a ton in each Test of a four-Test series. Not only that, but he also scored 770 runs, surpassing Don Bradman’s total of 715 in 1947-48 to record the most runs by an Australian against India in a Test series. These feats only go on to reflect Smith’s growth as a Test batsman. He has shown remarkable maturity at the crease and looks in complete control of the game.

Kohli had his fair share of milestones as well. He became only the second Indian after Sunil Gavaskar to score four tons in a Test series; he surpassed Rahul Dravid to record the most runs by an Indian in a Test series against Australia; he became the most successful No. 4 batsman in a series Down Under; and he became the first batsman to score hundreds in his first three Test innings as captain. These milestones and feats come as a huge relief after that nightmarish tour to England. Kohli made amends to those failures and bounced back to become India’s most reliable batsman at No. 4.

Captaincy tests lie ahead

Michael Clarke’s withdrawal allowed Smith to take over as captain for the rest of the series. Brad Haddin, the designated vice-captain under Clarke, was supposed to lead Australia, but the authorities took an inspired decision by blooding in the youngster. Haddin had, after all, captained Australia during the crucial stages of the Adelaide Test after Clarke had hobbled off the field with an injury. The Australian think-tank took a brave decision, but one that has worked well in hindsight. There is a clear succession plan to Clarke in case he decides to call time in the near future. Haddin is in his late 30s and Smith’s elevation makes sense.

The only blemish may be the delayed declaration in the second Test in Melbourne. Australia could well have won the game had they made the declaration earlier. In giving India only two sessions to bat, they made it easier for them. Smith will put it down to experience and will only learn over time. Given that it was his first series, and he managed to win a Test while scoring runs is commendable and presents exciting possibilities for Australia. On his defence, however, it can be said that Smith wanted to secure the series, thus shutting out India’s chances of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

On the other hand, Kohli was scheduled to succeed MS Dhoni as captain. It was more a question of when rather than whether; he made his Test captaincy debut in Adelaide when Dhoni was out injured. In that game, his attacking intent was a admirable, albeit in defeat. He had a few verbal duels with the Australians, but largely seemed under control as captain. Even when the crowd gave him some stick, he kept his cool. Kohli has a long way to go, but the first experience has been encouraging.

Best young batsmen in world cricket

Smith and Kohli are around the same age and have had similar fortunes in this series. Going by their performances, one can say that they have established themselves as the best young batsmen in Test cricket at the moment, with only Kane Williamson and Joe Root as contenders.

Kohli has been a dominant force in one-day cricket, but it is only during this series that one has seen him rule in the whites as well. Smith has been consistent for over a year, but has taken it to another level during this series. Passing Bradman on any scale is no easy task! Australia have the series in the bag and a potential leader. India may have lost the series but an era with exciting possibilities has begun under Kohli.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)