(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Published: Mon 17 Jan 2022, 12:14 AM
They say numbers don't lie. The caveat is that the answers you get from numbers will depend on your frame of reference.
So the numbers will tell you that Virat Kohli has been India's most successful Test captain, with 40 wins and 17 losses in 68 Tests. India won all 11 home series under him, losing only two matches.
It looks far less rosy if you see his Test captaincy in SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia) where the conditions are more challenging. He has won seven Tests out of 40.
Some would extol that achievement because winning in SENA countries is rare for teams from the sub-continent. But those less generous would argue that India have been underachieving, given the wealth of talent emerging from the Indian Premier League over the past decade. Concurrently, teams around the world have been in decline.
Kohli's crowning glory was India's first series win in Australia in 2018-19. But that was right after a ball-tampering scandal led to bans of Australia's batting mainstays, Steven Smith and David Warner. His other main achievement was the 2-1 lead in the Test series in England last year.
Kohli deserves credit for fielding four pace bowlers to match the English quartet on seaming wickets. He learnt his lesson from making the mistake of playing two spinners in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand just before the England series.
Unlike previous Indian Test captains, Kohli had as good a pace bowling attack at his disposal as any other team in the world. Once he allowed them to operate on par with their counterparts, by letting four of them share the load, it paid dividends. India won the first Test of the recently concluded series in South Africa.
Unfortunately, although he got the bowling combination right finally, recurring mistakes dogged him in other departments. Persisting with old stalwarts Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, whose Test averages were in the mid-twenties over a period of two years, cost India dearly. They could not post a total over 300 in any innings after the first innings of the first Test at Centurion, where the openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal posted a century opening stand.
Kohli's own poor form with the bat meant India had a weak middle order, even though they could have picked from a whole array of IPL stars. In fact, it's quite telling that the only two centuries posted in the South Africa series came from new gen players Rahul and Rishabh Pant.
Kohli kept saying that it made him proud to see that most people expected India to win in South Africa, unlike in the past. But the optimism was hardly surprising: South Africa were without their main strike bowler, Anrich Nortje, who had outshone Kagiso Rabada in last year's IPL; India's pace bowling attack, on the other hand, was at full strength, spearheaded by the well-rested duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.
As for the batting, South Africa cannot match the talent pool that India can draw upon, with the IPL throwing up outstanding performers year after year. Nobody raised an eyebrow when Shreyas Iyer scored a century and a fifty on debut against New Zealand a couple of months back, because they had already seen him perform in the IPL. That he did not get to play a single Test in South Africa, despite the prolonged struggles of Pujara and Rahane, was simply a bad call which helped South Africa win the series after losing the first Test.
Faulty selection and strategic mistakes on the field have dogged Kohli in limited overs captaincy as well, accounting for India being unable to win a single ICC trophy on his watch and Royal Challengers Bangalore being unable to win a single IPL title. In fact, RCB more often than not failed to make it to the last four.
Recurring mistakes have led to a huge decline in Kohli's batting too. South Africa's pacers were content to bowl outside off stump to Kohli, knowing that he would be suckered into edging a wide one. Only in the first innings of the last Test did Kohli leave wide balls until he succumbed for 79. But it came at the price of a low scoring rate, because Kohli has become over-reliant on the front foot cover drive and the flick through mid-wicket. We hardly ever see a backfoot punch or a cut, which has made life easier for bowlers who don't get punished when they bowl short and wide.
The best news for Indian cricket would be a return to the Kohli batsmanship of the pre-covid era, now that he has given up the burden of captaincy.
Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru. Write to him at
Legal Disclaimer: MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.