The complaint about Indian sides has often been they don’t travel well. That could be about to change and two of the reasons were on show at the MCG — Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Between them they’ve now accumulated 12 Test centuries and nine of those knocks have been played outside India.
Rahane’s list is as varied as Wellington, Lord’s and now the MCG, and what a spectacular exhibition of stroke play it was against a persistent Australian attack. To give Kohli a start when he’s in sparkling form and then beat him to the century mark is a good effort and Rahane did so by picking off every loose ball the Australians delivered and a few that were of decent quality. His placement was excellent and he overcame some previous jitters against the short ball by dispatching a couple of glorious pull shots to the boundary.
As the partnership reached record proportions the pair seemed determined to dent Mitchell Johnson’s confidence for evermore. Kohli started brilliantly with some elegant driving through the off-side but he then slowed as the Australians tightened their bowling and Rahane took charge. However, the only period where Kohli was troubled was following an altercation with Johnson.
The bowler hit him a sharp blow in the back with a misguided throw at the stumps. Johnson immediately apologised, which Kohli didn’t seem to accept as he became embroiled in a verbal stoush at the end of the over. Some players are buoyed by a verbal battle but the resulting trouble that Kohli endured - a play and miss, a dropped chance and then a mistimed pull shot - seemed to suggest he’d be well advised to avoid such confrontations in future.
It might also be advisable for his captaincy ambitions as there are times when he becomes an angry young man. This will not only get him into trouble with the officials but it’ll also affect his captaincy if he’s distracted easily.
And if the Indian team is to make the advances that the talent suggests is possible, then they need Kohli in charge. India could be a real powerhouse in eighteen months when they gain a little more experience - with one proviso - they won’t reach those levels with M S Dhoni as captain.
His leadership at the MCG followed a recent trend of missed opportunities and mystifying tactics. The ability of the Australian tail to prosper has been costly and at the MCG it was down to Dhoni’s senseless tactics, followed by long periods of negative captaincy. Dhoni’s puzzling approach left the Indian bowlers floundering with little chance of making a break through.
Kohli said after the Adelaide loss that the only way this team will get better is to be presented with regular challenges. He’s right but this won’t happen under Dhoni.
Dhoni exacerbated his flawed captaincy with a strange innings and the late surge of wickets prompted by the lion-hearted Ryan Harris meant India had squandered an opportunity to lead on the first innings. Too often this has been the story of India’s tour.