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India vs England: Does this Virat Kohli-reliant team have a leadership group at all?

Coach-captain are never going to be enough to address everyone’s needs and concerns individually and therefore, you need more hands on deck to firefight properly.

cricket Updated: Aug 17, 2018 11:24 IST
Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
india,england,virat kohli
It’s important to instill the belief that this team isn’t about Kohli, which is how it’s looking like currently(Action Images via Reuters)

Success is like a magnet that brings the players closer. On the other hand, failure is a repellant that can push players away from each other. But like happy families, good teams also come closer in the moment of crisis. An abject loss can be very demoralising and if not handled sensitively, it can lead to players drifting away, and the moment it happens, there’s no recourse to past glory. At least, not in the immediate future.

Every dressing room in the world shares the same DNA — it’ll always comprise of supremely confident players (who have found their path and can be trusted to be left alone), players who often need an arm around their shoulder (need comforting and handling with kid gloves), players who need to be constantly challenged (harsh words and actions are necessary for their betterment) and players who tend to gravitate towards the happy areas in the room (generally the younger lot that can be called the fringe players).

Understanding the dynamics of a dressing room is critical to chart a new course of action following a dreadful loss. While it’s almost a norm that a loss like Lord’s, as opposed to the loss at Edgbaston, would invite some harsh words from the captain and coach, a good coach-captain understands that everyone is equally hurt and therefore, showing them a mirror is going to be enough. It’s also important to avoid singling out individuals, for you run a risk of losing that player.

Leadership Group

Good teams identify a leadership group really early and that makes all kinds of crisis management a lot easier. Coach-captain are never going to be enough to address everyone’s needs and concerns individually and therefore, you need more hands on deck to firefight properly.

In my time with the Indian team, seniors like Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar had assumed that responsibility, which not only left Sourav Ganguly and John Wright to focus on team strategies but also, took a huge burden off their shoulders.

The defeats in Melbourne and Lahore hurt us deeply but the leadership group never allowed it to become big enough for the younger lot to be affected by it. It’ll be interesting to know if the current Indian team has a leadership group and what kind of roles they’ve assumed and are assigned, for getting the team together in the right spirit after back to back losses can be quite a task.

ALSO READ: Half-fit Virat Kohli can be more dangerous, says England coach Trevor Bayliss

Only quick-fix

India might have lost the first two Tests; they need to have a strong belief running through every individual in the team (including the support staff) that all is not lost and that they’ll bounce back. India did display this attitude after losing the first two Tests against South Africa earlier this year. The only difference between the two teams was India’s hunger to make the Test match count and they did.

Once again, India will have to show similar hunger and attitude to fight it out right till the end. It’s not easy since the personnel involved are going through a horrid patch themselves and that’s why India need an inspirational performance from someone else besides Kohli.

It’s important to instill the belief that this team isn’t about Kohli, which is how it’s looking like currently. Indian cricket’s golden age happened only after Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag and Ganguly not only shared the workload with Tendulkar but also outshone him regularly.

While it’s a blessing to have special talent like Tendulkar and Kohli in your side (opposition is always wary and in awe them), a team starts achieving its potential only when the rest contribute significantly. Performances in South Africa have raised concerns and if India doesn’t turn it around in the next three Tests in England, there’s a real danger of this side disintegrating ahead of the Australian tour later this year.

And that’ll be a shame.

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 08:16 IST