Virat Kohli has been criticised for his batting in England, but he is still the captain of India. He faces questions over his captaincy and will be under pressure to perform in the upcoming series against Australia.
Virat Kohli, the captain of India, faced questions over batting and captaincy after England’s victory.
In his first three innings as Test captain in 2014, Virat Kohli scored 115, 141, and 147 runs.
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Virat Kohli has been the guy who could do no wrong for so long that when things go wrong for India, it seems to be a cosmic disruption, a rearranging of the order of things.
He last scored a century in a Test match in November of this year. For the last 51 innings, he has not scored a century for India in any format.
India were thrashed by an innings in four days at Emerald Headingley, after a stunning victory against England at Lord’s.
The exciting series, which is tied at 1-1 with two Tests remaining, continues on Thursday at the Kia Oval, with Kohli holding the key to whether India can recover.
Where has Kohli’s batting gone wrong?
He seems to have ‘off-stumpitis’ against swing bowlers, in which he is unsure where his off stump is.
He’s tinkering with deliveries that he should avoid. Bowlers have played on Kohli’s ego by pushing him to play the ball, which he has done, although cautiously.
In England, batsmen on each side of him in the order, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, have both gone out in similar manner, creating a middle-order crisis, both with more patience and no real hurry to demonstrate who is ruler.
Kohli has been mindful of playing tight to his body and meeting the ball under his eye since the 2018 tour of England, when he did not get out to James Anderson once despite hitting two hundred and a 97.
He’s been leaving the outswingers well on this tour, but he’s gotten himself into a knot over the ball, which threatens to escape him but stays on line.
Kohli has the mental and physical tools to solve the problem. But, with back-to-back Tests on the horizon, the burden is on him to nail his batting, squad selection, and tactics.
Captains like England’s Mike Brearley and India’s Tiger Pataudi (late in his career) overcame personal batting failures to lead their teams to victory.
Kohli must demonstrate that he is just as inspiring in loss as he is in triumph, when things are going wrong as well as when his side is on top, if India is to win their first series in England since 2007.
‘When his coworkers saw what he was eating, they ordered the same thing.’
Kohli loves leading the team. He takes pride in imprinting his personality on the squad. He loves posing challenges to his teammates as well as his opponents.
His leadership track record is outstanding. His batting average as captain is much better than it was before to his appointment, and he is India’s most successful Test captain with 37 victories.
Kohli’s and his team’s celebrations, which have been full-throated, full-blooded, and unashamedly self-congratulatory, with the odd verbal jab at the opponent, have at times detracted from the performance.
Kohli makes up for his lack of tactical knowledge by ensuring that his squad is on the same page and plays with aggressiveness and self-belief.
Kohli has had a stronger sense of ‘team spirit’ than previous Indian leaders. He’s instilled his own philosophy in the team: excellent fitness, strong fielding standards, and the significance of Test cricket.
I recall having dinner with Kohli at a team hotel when other players would come by our table, take a look at what he was eating, and then order the same dish. Kohli inspires his men in ways that transcend beyond their career, as excellent leaders do.
If Kohli’s halo has fallen a bit, it’s as much due to his bad form as it is due to his overbearing leadership in England.
When it works, it seems justified, but when it doesn’t, it looks stupid and immature.
Is India’s aggressiveness going too far?
Kohli, who is 32 years old, is now being questioned about both his batting and his leadership. At Lord’s, he got the second part right, giving England 60 overs to rescue the Test, a job they couldn’t handle.
However, he may have been duped by the brownish appearance of the wicket at Headingley, opting to bat first and suffering the twin humiliation of getting bowled out for 78 and seeing England pile up more than five times that score.
During a commercial break, Indian television broadcasted the 2002 Test at Headingleyexternal-link, in which India captain Sourav Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat on a seamer-friendly pitch. In his squad, though, he had Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. India triumphed by an innings after all three players hit hundreds.
The Kohli mentality became apparent when Jasprit Bumrah, the gentlest of fast bowlers, was instructed to attack number 11 Anderson with a sequence of bouncers. The goal is to act hostile and retaliate before being provoked. Confrontations are encouraged in the idea that it will help bowlers perform better.
There’s also the idea that winning isn’t enough; it has to be followed by humiliation, a term that has no place in sports. Stump mics at Lord’s caught up a lot of mocking laughter as England wickets dropped and batters battled.
‘Do we want our cricket team to be regarded as aggressive bullies who behave as if the 22 yards and everything else belong to them, or is there another way to win that does not reach down into the lesser demons (as opposed to the greater angels) of our nature?’ I wrote in my newspaper column at the time.
The response was swift. A large number of fans felt I was wrong to criticize Kohli, but a sizable proportion thought he had passed a limit.
Do you prefer a soft Kohli who loses Tests or a tough Kohli who wins them all? Except for the profanity, that was the essence of the replies. No one dares to criticize triumphalism.
Captaincy, on the other hand, cannot always be about attacking. Kohli has shown that his team is untouchable. Playing well is the most effective kind of retaliation.
Victory is the ultimate justification in sports, and if India wins the series, the disappointments will go away. If Kohli’s hitting played a part, he would have pushed the halo back himself.
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