Change creates its own logic and its dynamics can set in motion a chain of events which can’t be stopped. When Virat Kohli took over the reins of the India Test team, it was apparent that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s days as the India One-day captain were numbered. The question was not why but when.
Today, I think it is time to raise that question again. The why is not relevant as it is inevitable that Kohli will one day become captain across all formats.
The only question mark over Kohli was his short temper and uncouth behaviour on the field because of which he did not get widespread acceptance as captain. We can’t expect a sudden transformation in a man who personifies aggression, but Kohli can and is controlling his temper, as was evident in Sri Lanka. Equally important was the impression one got that he did appear to be a man in control of himself and his young team. In short, responsibility has done him more good than harm and he has shown that he can act like a big brother and not a spoilt brat, though apprehensions will remain.
What if unbridled power makes him tear away the mask of restraint he may have been wearing in order to gain immediate approval? If that happens, there are ways to deal with it but for the present, the larger question of captaincy across all formats needs attention.
The time, I believe, has come and Kohli should be made captain across all formats now. I know there will be howls of protests from the legion of Dhoni followers. The obvious reason will be that he has done so much for the team and has been, without doubt, one of the finest India captains, especially in the shorter format. Alas, there is a time to celebrate and a time to say thank you.
When Dhoni was, all of a sudden, made the India T20 and ODI captain after the 2007 World Cup disaster, it was called an audacious move. It worked well and Dhoni finally became the India Test captain as well and has led with dignity and control not always visible in many India captains.
The question today to be asked is not how good he is but how long will he last, and will he lead us in the 2019 World Cup? The answer to these questions should be obvious. If in form, he is the most valuable One-day player in the world and his place in the team will be guaranteed. But we are looking almost four years ahead, and don’t forget Dhoni is not getting any younger.
Secondly, Kohli is not only young but also the future of Indian cricket. He is now saddled with the job of the India Test captain and pragmatism demands that for the sake of continuity and not creating two power centres in the team, he should be made One-day captain as well.
From early next month, India play an important series against South Africa at home and it won’t be a bad idea to install Kohli as the all-season captain from this series. There are many stern tests ahead and let him be given a free rein and lot of space to hone and work on his future strategies.
Dhoni can play the same role for Kohli as the likes of Tendulkars, Gangulys and Dravids performed for him. There is no substitute for change at the right time and that time has come.