The game theory: Team Manmohan-Dhoni vs Team Modi-Kohli

I think if Dhoni were to ask Kohli in the dressing room right now to be his swashbuckling self so India has a chance of keeping the cup, the youngster would say, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”

cricket Updated: Feb 17, 2015 19:57 IST
Pathikrit Sen Gupta
Pathikrit Sen Gupta
Hindustan Times
India vs Pakistan,World Cup 2015,Arvind Kejriwal

A barrage of rumours that World Cup 2015 had got off the mark on Valentine’s Day shot up like perfume balls, but we the enlightened enthusiasts kept hitting them out of the park with the disdain they deserved.

When the tournament finally took off on February 15 with the boys in blue taking on the guys in green, we knew the chances of Pakistan coming up trumps were slimmer than the likelihood of @AmitShahOffice following @ArvindKejriwal— at least on Twitter.

Having said that, the Indian team forced us— body and mind— into the hurt locker with its performances after touching down in Australia last December. Most of the batsmen were scoring like nerds on a prom night while the bowlers were showering Christmas presents faster than you could say, “Ho ho ho.”

But, cometh the hour, cometh the man. As his name suggests, Virat Kohli is a big match player. The fiercely talented Delhi lad’s eye-grabbing consistency in recent times has saved the team’s blushes on more than one occasion.

After playing Catch Me If You Can, twice, with the Pakistani fielders, Kohli went on to score a flamboyant ton that weighed heavily on the second innings chase, having virtually sealed the fate of the game.

Celebrations over, most cognisant fans were back to plodding along on their hedonistic treadmills with the defending champions still very much the underdogs among the big boys in this tournament.

However, that’s not going to sway Virat Kohli one bit.

The 26-year-old has always believed in backing his confidence, and with the assurance evident in his shot selection and footwork he has rarely been found wanting with his technique even on bowler-friendly surfaces abroad.

He has already taken over the mantle of Test captaincy from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and irrespective of the team’s fate in this competition the one-day crown is not far away.

Kohli’s meteoric rise is no happenstance; he has earned his stripes. What’s curious though is how the respective evolutions of Dhoni and Kohli coincided with the terms of two men at the helm of the country who are as different as mist and mast.

While Manmohan Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are known to be soft-spoken, Narendra Modi and Virat Kohli are equally renowned for their way with words. Critics want the incumbent Prime Minister to walk the talk and advise India’s newest Test skipper to stop sledging and focus on exploits.

Pundits also prodded Manmohan and Dhoni to speak up when their teams were mired in controversies. With these two men you always felt someone else was pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

While the technocrat-turned-politician was rewarded for being loyal to the Gandhi family, the Jharkhand boy cemented his place in all forms of the game with industrialist N Srinivasan running Indian cricket.

But they were audacious when the big moments came.

As captain, in the World Twenty20 final in 2007, Dhoni opened the batting with the less-fancied Yusuf Pathan and threw the ball to Joginder Sharma for the last over, leading to a famous victory.

It was Manmohan Singh’s tenacity and willingness to sacrifice his office for the India-US nuclear deal that has allowed his successor to reap the rewards.

Dhoni went on to lead India to the No. 1 ranking in Tests and a World Cup victory after 28 years. Manmohan’s time in office witnessed the economy more than double in size, while close to 100 million citizens were lifted out of abject poverty.

It’s early days yet, but Modi and Kohli seem too strong-willed to remain under someone’s thumb. They are brash, vigorous and clearly want to see their name in lights – or, occasionally, all over a suit.

Modi has already sparked a partial dismantling of subsidies, movement towards a more transparent policy on natural resources and moves to make India more inviting for foreign investors. Kohli ended his disappointment of the preceding England tour by scoring fantastically in the Australian visit, squashing doubts over his class and technique to last in the longest version.

But both men are in form right now and enjoy popular support. When things go south, the high-spirited ones are more likely to implode. Should they then attempt to mimic the less dynamic duo’s Zen-like calmness or let the fire burn?

I think if Dhoni were to ask Kohli in the dressing room right now to be his swashbuckling self so India has a chance of keeping the cup, the youngster would say, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”

Pathikrit Sen Gupta (Twitter: @pathikrit2sen) is a journalist and cricket enthusiast. He also loves sphinx moths and dance flies! Views expressed by the author are personal.

First Published: Feb 17, 2015 18:02 IST