Indian cricket team under Virat Kohli has a new ‘culture’- fall in line or else

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team is been driven by a new ‘culture’ based on strict adherence to basic ‘team culture’ and having no room for disagreement let alone dissent.

cricket Updated: Mar 01, 2018 08:45 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Virat Kohli,Indian national cricket team,MS Dhoni
Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team enjoyed a successful tour of South Africa, winning the ODI series 5-1 and the Twenty20 Internationals 2-1 after losing the Tests 1-2. (AP)

Despite the Test series loss, South Africa was a major step forward for Indian cricket. Driven by a new ‘culture’, the DNA of Virat’s team is different from previous Indian teams.

Notice the change. No Indian team has done this well overseas, not for a long time. India were competitive in Tests and outstanding in other games. Our bowling in Tests revolved round quality pace and, in the shorter format, around quality wrist spin.

The players have changed — they look like cool models with tattoos, flashy lifestyles, funky haircuts. More remarkable is the transformation of the team itself, now a close knit ‘group’ of individuals with shared values. The ‘group’ is about cricket, also about bonding, attitude and unwritten rules.

Strict adherence and compliance is basic to ‘team culture’. Individuals must toe the line, not cross it — there must be no-questions-asked loyalty with no room for disagreement let alone dissent.

This new culture is scripted by Virat Kohli, captain of India, arguably the best batsman in the world. He is the high command, twice in stature compared to the person next in line. With no seniors around (MSD does not play all formats) Virat is the supreme leader. Vice captains (Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit Sharma) and seniors (Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin ) are way, way down the pecking order.

Kohli has clout and control, also clarity about which road to take in the journey ahead. Keen to make a mark in international cricket, Kohli has little time for those who don’t share his vision. Anil Kumble was unaligned, so had to make way and the BCCI did multiple somersaults to accommodate his wishes.

Kohli’s world is of yo yo tests, top fitness, high intensity and an aggressive mindset. He wants the team to do well, specially overseas, and so strong is this desire that Aiden Markram, pushed into captaining South Africa after playing one ODI, marvelled at Kohli’s ‘desperation’ to win.

In Team India, every member must buy into ‘group’ vision and confirm allegiance — just as union ministers affirm faith in the constitution while taking oath of office.

Some think this ‘team culture’ bit is overstated and not anything new. Every cricket team of 11 players, it is pointed out, plays with one purpose and respects the captain’s vision. True, but the difference today is in the edge to this thinking, in the expected compliance and impatience towards those not meeting laid down yardsticks.

Earlier, MS Dhoni led India with distinction; he too had power and a certain vision for the team. But under Kohli, team culture is a bigger priority and seems India has adopted the Aussie cricket manual of playing cricket. This is the ‘win at all cost’ approach of aggression, cocky self confidence, on-field send offs and off-field mind games.

In a globally connected world where leagues like the IPL erase boundaries, teams insist members follow a common ‘culture’. When Kevin Pietersen refused to blend with the group, England dumped him. In Australia, Glenn Maxwell the maverick is on notice to adjust to the group.

Similar changes are happening with Team India.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with IPL in official capacity)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author

First Published: Mar 01, 2018 08:38 IST