India vs England: England crisis chance for Virat Kohli to reinvent captaincy

Kohli, the world’s premier batsman who swatted away his England Test batting blues, is under pressure to inspire a comeback against strong rivals after going 0-2 down in the five-game series.

cricket Updated: Aug 16, 2018 13:13 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Nottingham
virat kohli,england,india
On this tour, Kohli set the marker, scoring an epic 149 in the Edgbaston Test, but his batsmen have fallen in a heap, repeatedly.(Action Images via Reuters)

Virat Kohli’s captaincy has been a lot about leading by example, channelling aggression through batting exploits. However, he faces a severe test four years into the job as India look to bounce back from their debacle in the Lord’s Test.

After spending two days in London to get over the innings and 159-run defeat in actual two days playing time that put them 0-2 behind, India arrived in Nottingham on Wednesday for the Trent Bridge Test. There will be lot on the team management’s plate ahead of the match starting on Saturday.

Kohli, the world’s premier batsman who swatted away his England Test batting blues, is under pressure to inspire a comeback against strong rivals after going 0-2 down in the five-game series.

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This is only Kohli’s second tough overseas assignment, and comes after the 1-2 South Africa series defeat in January. On the 2014-15 Australia series, he took over only because MS Dhoni wasn’t available first up and then suddenly retired.

Unless India put up a fight in Trent Bridge, statements by Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri that the team must be judged by its showing in South Africa, England, and Australia -- at the year end -- will sound hollow.

When Kohli was named vice-captain for the 2014-15 Australia series, he was coming off a poor series with the bat in England. But the selectors and BCCI had no doubts.

The Under-19 World Cup-winning skipper of 2008 breathed fire with the bat in the first Test at Adelaide as Dhoni’s stand-in, and though India lost narrowly, he captivated world cricket, especially Australian fans who love a fighter.

Usually Test skippers are nurtured in limited-overs, but that responsibility came later. Some observers felt captaincy would soften him, though it hasn’t been the case.

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On this tour, Kohli set the marker, scoring an epic 149 in the Edgbaston Test, but his batsmen have fallen in a heap, repeatedly.

The India skipper asked his batsmen to look in the mirror and find ways to rectify mistakes after Edgbaston. At Lord’s, India were shot out for 107 and 130 in 82.2 overs. Kohli said batsmen must keep an uncluttered mind when facing the swing bowling of James Anderson and Co.

However, it may not be easy. KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have all looked anxious. Putting pressure on Pujara to score quickly when he gets set has had the opposite effect. Rahane’s technique has only dipped since he was controversially kept out of the first two Tests in South Africa.

Now, with the series on the line, India will have to decide whether to give young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant his Test debut after Dinesh Karthik’s flop show.

Kohli has been Indian cricket’s supreme leader for four years. But as the reality of playing overseas bites, and back problem adds to it, he may have to find ways to calm down and motivate his batsmen, experienced enough but looking lost.

He can take a leaf out of his predecessors on ways to earn loyalty.

Sourav Ganguly backed players he had faith in, and protected them. Rahul Dravid took a step back to let others express themselves, which helped India to their last series win in England (2007), soon after beating West Indies despite Sachin Tendulkar’s absence.

Anil Kumble tackled the ‘Monkeygate’ scandal on the 2008-9 Australia tour and backed an out-of-favour Virender Sehwag amid the bedlam, recalling him and triggering a great revival. Dhoni was exceptional in handling senior players.

The BCCI backed Kohli in last year’s feud that led to Kumble’s ouster as coach in England, which showed in whom it saw Indian cricket’s future. Thus, like his re-inventing his batting, England can also be the place where Kohli turns a new leaf as skipper.

First Published: Aug 16, 2018 09:59 IST