Virat Kohli © Getty Images
No one who watched Virat Kohli since his fledgling days in international cricket would be surprised with the way he has captained India so far © Getty Images

Virat Kohli won his first Test as Indian captain after drawing and losing two Tests each, when India beat Sri Lanka by 278 runs at Colombo. His approach has been positive right from his first Test as captain, going for a belligerent chase against Australia at Adelaide and nearly pulling it off. He has copped a bit of criticism along the way, with some people feeling that Kohli was unable to back up his intent with results. With this win, Shiamak Unwalla feels Kohli has finally been vindicated in his aggressive but chancy captaincy. READ: Virat Kohli’s trial by fire as Test captain begins with tour of Sri Lanka

No one who watched Virat Kohli since his fledgling days in international cricket would be surprised with the way he has captained India so far. In 17 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) that Kohli has led India, 14 have resulted in wins. The three matches India lost under Kohli were all close ones with a depleted side. His ODI captaincy might not be described by many as being astute; the word inspirational might come to mind instead. Already in his short captaincy career in ODIs he has shown a willingness to back players and put individuals ahead of himself, as he showed by giving Ambati Rayudu the No. 3 position during Sri Lanka’s ODI series against India late in 2014. READ: Virat Kohli must back his decisions

However, his true examination was always going to be leading India in Tests. He made his captaincy debut against Australia at Adelaide and there was immediately an indication of what was to follow. Right from the team selection — he chose the attacking move of picking a leg-spinner in the form of Karn Sharma ahead of regular spinners Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja — to the execution of plans, Kohli’s captaincy screamed offense. Faced with a 364-run target, Kohli led the way himself with an excellent 141, and though India lost by 48 runs, what Kohli said at the end was worth nothing; he spoke about how, had India played for a draw, they would have probably ended up losing by over 100 runs. READ: Murali Vijay’s injury opens the door for Cheteshwar Pujara ahead of India vs Sri Lanka 2015, 3rd Test

Kohli’s second Test as captain came in the final Test of that same tour at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Once again, Kohli’s attacking brand of captaincy came to fore before the first ball was even bowled. KL Rahul, who was dismissed cheaply in both innings of the previous Test at MCG, was made to open batting. The out-of-touch Shikhar Dhawan and an under-performing Cheteshwar Pujara were both dropped. Rohit Sharma was made to bat at No. 3 and India went in with the explosive Suresh Raina. Rahul scored a century, Rohit made a half-century, and though Raina got a pair India managed to draw a hard-fought Test. READ: It is time for “Captain Kohli” to step up

Then came the one-off Test against Bangladesh at Fatullah, and Kohli dropped another bomb: India would now be playing with six batsmen (one of them Wriddhiman Saha) and five bowlers. The bulk of the bowling was done by Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh in a rain-marred draw, but India dominated the length of the match. READ: Virat Kohli scores four centuries in his first four Tests as captain

By now a pattern was emerging. Kohli was unafraid to experiment, and having made the changes he deemed were necessary, he was ready to back himself. The results had not come yet, but they seemed just ’round the corner. The first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle seemed to be the moment it would all pay off. Instead, India capitulated against Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal on Day Four as India lost by 63 runs. India had dominated the first three and a half days, but two bad sessions had turned the game on its head. READ: Give Virat Kohli time, folks

At P Sara Stadium, Colombo, Kohli had a point to prove. India were getting themselves into good positions and then squandering their position. He now needed to guide the team to a win. India had taken the first-innings lead, and Kohli wanted to maximise. Murali Vijay and Rahane played well, and everyone made a contribution to the total. Kohli declared just after tea on Day Four with, setting Sri Lanka a 413-run target in just less than four sessions. It was a huge ask, but one that Sri Lanka would have certainly considered possible. READ: Virat Kohli’s positive cricket leads India forward in 2nd Test against Sri Lanka at Colombo

Kohli then backed his bowlers, and stuck to his plans to the hilt. He shuffled his bowlers around well, and for the first time there was an obvious method to his aggression. He was using his pacers in short bursts; Umesh Yadav was bowling well throughout the match, and he was given short but frequent spells. Ashwin and Ishant did the bulk of the bowling, while Amit Mishra was used purely as a wicket-taking option. Stuart Binny — who had bowled wonderfully in the first innings — was not needed. The move worked wonderfully, and India won an over and a half after lunch. READ: Virat Kohli’s captaincy will steer a new beginning

The Kohli era has officially begun. This has been his first win as Test skipper, but it will most definitely not be his last. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect that we have seen about Kohli is that he will risk a loss to go for a win. Test cricket needs captains who think that way. Kohli has talked the talk; he is now walking the walk. READ: Virat Kohli’s decision to field six batsmen and five bowlers could backfire on India

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)