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Virat Kohli’s big test after grand home run

Virat Kohli has captained India in 32 Tests, but 30 of them have either come against self-doubting opponents or on turning tracks at home.

cricket Updated: Jan 01, 2018 19:44 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Virat Kohli will be leading the Indian cricket team against South Africa this month.
Virat Kohli will be leading the Indian cricket team against South Africa this month.(AFP)

Although rich praise has been showered on Virat Kohli for India’s nine consecutive Test series wins, there is no doubt he got more time than other captains to settle in his role. Kohli has captained India in 32 Tests, but 30 of them have either come against self-doubting opponents or on turning tracks at home that flummoxed top sides like South Africa and England. Australia, despite their stunning win in Pune, were also tamed by the hosts in the end.

Had it not been for MS Dhoni’s sudden mid-series retirement on the 2014-15 Australia tour, Kohli wouldn’t have led India in two Tests in that series. He had deputised for Dhoni in the first Test in Adelaide, before leading in the final game in Sydney.

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Stunning chase

Though India eventually lost in Adelaide, Kohli was close to pulling off a heist with a commanding 141, his second century of the Test. After that series though, it has been one-way traffic for Kohli, not just notching up victories, but comfortable ones either at home or on placid tracks in Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

The fact that he has already scripted six innings victories in 32 Tests is a measure of how smooth a ride it has been for Kohli. Dhoni had nine innings victories in the 60 Tests he led India. In 49 Tests, Sourav Ganguly had seven innings victories.

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Stable leadership

Long gone are the days of captains being appointed on a tour-to-tour basis amid fear that a disastrous series loss might lead to the axe. Stability counts these days and it’s always good for a team to know that a captain is appointed keeping in mind long-term goals. But perhaps no one has enjoyed such a good head start in captaincy like Kohli.

Within the first three years of being appointed captain, Dhoni had already toured New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies and England. Anil Kumble’s first two series as captain were against Pakistan at home and Australia away. Five out of Dravid’s first 10 Tests were against Pakistan. And within four months of getting the captaincy, Ganguly was faced with the challenge of taking on a marauding Australia at home.

Down to schedule

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Compared to them Kohli, who captained India in nine Tests against Sri Lanka, may have had it slightly easier. But Kohli is right in feeling he can’t be blamed for winning everything.

“The schedule was such we ended up playing a lot of games at home,” Kohli responded when asked about his success streak on the first day of training here. “But we won away in Sri Lanka twice. Especially the tour to Australia laid a great foundation. We are the only side to have scored 450-500 plus runs in every game ever in Australia among all the teams before,” he said.

There’s no doubt not winning at home would have made Kohli’s position tenuous. “If someone would have given me in writing that a team just turns up, not having prepared in your home conditions at all; not being focused, not being disciplined, you could end up winning every game or every series you play. It’s about respecting the sport,” he said.

India had to tour South Africa, England and Australia at some point and it may be happenstance all three tours fall in 2018. They may have already broken a few records, but this year could well decide Kohli’s stature and his team’s legacy.