Virat Kohli’s trial by fire as India’s 32nd Test captain begins with tour of Sri Lanka

Test cricket needs brave captains, and India need Virat Kohli to embrace the role he seems destined to play.

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India are not likely to play for a draw under Virat Kohli if there is a chance of going for a win © Getty Images
India are not likely to play for a draw under Virat Kohli if there is a chance of going for a win © Getty Images

Virat Kohli has led India in three Tests, losing one and drawing two. In this short time we have seen glimpses of the type of captain he is: a fiercely aggressive and result oriented leader who backs his players. He showed in his first match as captain — against Australia at Adelaide — that India are not likely to play for a draw under Kohli  if there is a chance of going for a win. Kohli is yet to captain a full series though, and India’s tour of Sri Lanka will be his trial by fire, feels Shiamak Unwalla. READ: Indian captains and their Test cricket records in Sri Lanka

The personality of a team is often a mirror of their captain. Under Sourav Ganguly, India were a passionate side who believed they could beat the odds. Under Rahul Dravid, India became astute and skilful. Under Anil Kumble, India showed steely determination. Under MS Dhoni, India were calm and collected. Based on the little we have seen of India under Virat Kohli, it would seem that results are important be it a win or a loss, and that is good news for Test cricket. READ: Shikhar Dhawan’s best chance to seal Test spot

Kohli is yet to come into his own as a captain. He has led India well in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) so far, and enjoys a very successful record as limited-overs skipper. But Test cricket calls for different skills entirely, both as a player and a captain. He nearly led India to a fantastic win before suffering defeat against Australia at Adelaide thinking it would be a one-off match. He found out that he would captain in the fourth Test at Sydney after Dhoni’s shock retirement, and ended up drawing a close game. His next Test was against Bangladesh in a one-off rain-marred draw that India dominated from start to finish. READ: Stats analysis of Indian batsmen in Sri Lanka

India’s tour of Sri Lanka will be Kohli’s first full series as captain. As such, he will start with more or less a clean slate as the 32nd skipper of the country. This will be the first real series in which Kohli the captain will be on full, uninterrupted display. Within the space of a few months, Kohli will have captained in seven Tests (assuming nothing drastic happens), three in and against Sri Lanka and four at home against the visiting South Africa. READ: Virat Kohli’s captaincy will steer a new beginning

We already know that India under Kohli will be a positive, aggressive side. But the finer aspects of Kohli’s captaincy will now come to the fore. How he conducts himself under immense pressure will be interesting to watch. Dhoni tended to let the game drift at times; will Kohli make things happen? One major difference between them is that Dhoni preferred the comfort of playing six frontline batsmen with himself at No. 7; Kohli has already declared that Wriddhiman Saha will bat at No. 6 to accommodate five frontline bowlers. Kohli has said that he expects Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Harbhajan Singh to step up with the bat more often than not. POLL: Which spinner should India pick to partner Ravichandran Ashwin?

Kohli clearly backs his players, as evidenced by him announcing that Rohit Sharma will bat at No. 3 in the first Test. Rohit has been in indifferent form in Tests recently, so the move to have him at the top of the order  is a brave one. It also suggests that Kohli is willing to risk the initial failure if there is a potential long-term benefit; a trait that is seen in any great leader. READ: Virat Kohli has to fulfill lots of expectations, says Romesh Kaluwitharana

India have not yet won a Test under Kohli. He will hope that in the next few months that record is changed. Test cricket needs brave captains, and India need Kohli to embrace the role he seems destined to play. READ: 5 memorable India vs Sri Lanka Tests

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

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