India vs England: Virat Kohli’s intensity makes people nervous - Mike Brearley
India are No 1 in Test rankings under Virat Kohli’s captaincy, but he and coach Ravi Shastri had declared overseas success as the barometer to test the team.Updated: Aug 05, 2018 19:13 IST
“Every decision is analysed ten-fold if you lose,” former England skipper Michael Vaughan summed up soon after the hosts had registered an exciting win over India in the first Test at Edgbaston on Saturday.
Virat Kohli passed the England batting test in flying colours, a career-defining 149 followed by 51 that kept India alive into the fourth morning.
However, defeat means focus will continue to stay on Kohli as captain in tough overseas conditions. India are No 1 in Test rankings under him (Kohli also became No 1 Test batsman after Edgbaston), but Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri had declared overseas success as the barometer to test the team.
In Edgbaston, it was Joe Root — whose team is also under scrutiny — who took the captaincy honours. Early defeat abroad can make some captains defensive, and at Edgbaston, Kohli as batsman towered over the captain as India were close to victory.
When India lost the series in South Africa in January, the chopping and changing of the playing eleven under Kohli was questioned.
The same eleven has never played in any of his 36 games as skipper. Here, axing Cheteshwar Pujara and not bringing backing R Ashwin early in Sam Curran’s blistering second-innings 63 have been questioned.
Mike Brearley, former England skipper and one of Test cricket’s most astute skippers – he led in 31 of his 39 Tests and won 18, losing just four -- wondered whether the level of adulation and free hand Kohli got was ideal.
Kohli has pushed the team to be his mirror image, be it fitness or aggression, but the batting unit has struggled.“Everyone has his style, I like (Kohli); he is keen, hawk-eyed,” Brearley said in an informal chat during the match.
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He said there was no doubt Kohli was the world’s best batsman. “It’ll be very nice for him, make it a lot easier,” he said about the Edgbaston century.
But he added: “I suppose the one thing you wonder about Kohli is whether he is going to become too dominant a figure in Indian cricket? Great respect is shown to great Indian cricketers but, especially him at the moment, he is a deity in India; will that be good for him and Indian cricket in the long run?”
Brearley saw shades of Kohli in the intensity of Ishant Sharma and Ashwin, who shared 13 wickets. “Some of that comes from Kohli too. There is an intensity about his cricket. Occasionally, I daresay, it makes people nervous. But on the whole I think it animates them, dynamises people.”
Brearley said former Australia skipper Ian Chappell’s aggression, in the 1970s, did make some teammates uneasy. “You have to know the (Indian) dressing room, people there (to comment). It is possible. It was said of Ian Chappell years ago that because he was very aggressive and wasn’t short of a word or two in the batsman’s ear. Some in the team didn’t feel they kind of enjoyed this, they felt a bit outside of that. But I have no idea if it’s true of Kohli.”
However, he felt modern day captains didn’t have an ideal atmosphere to grow into their jobs. “They have less experience of captaining in other cricket because of so much central contracts, one-day cricket and so on; there are managers and head coaches and assistant coaches. So, you have to negotiate with the coaches as well as opposition, so that is a complexity.
“And batting has become more aggressive. On the whole, pitches have become better for batting, scores have been higher. So captaincy has become less inventive on the whole.”