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Runs prove Virat Kohli’s ability like Sunil Gavaskar’s to switch off captaincy worries

Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli equalled Sunil Gavaskar’s record for most centuries by an Indian Test skipper (11) with an unbeaten, second-innings 104 in the first Test vs Sri Lanka cricket team in Kolkata

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Nov 24, 2017 17:02 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Sri Lanka,IND vs SL,Virat Kohli
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli has been the team’s driving force even before taking over the leadership of the side.(PTI)

Sachin Tendulkar was seen as the heir to Sunil Gavaskar for the title of run machine, though Rahul Dravid too carried that legacy forward with his sheer batting consistency. Now Virat Kohli has taken over as India’s all-weather batsman. (IND vs Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Day 1 live updates)

The Indian cricket team skipper became the team’s driving force even before taking over the leadership. And going into the Nagpur Test against Sri Lanka, he is on the verge of a milestone that is more than just a big number.

Virat Kohli equalled Gavaskar’s recordfor most centuries by an Indian Test skipper (11) with an unbeaten, second-innings 104 in Kolkata that almost carried the hosts to victory on Day 5.

Point out Kohli’s 87.39 strike rate in that innings, and Gavaskar might respond with a mischievous smile. His reputation as batting anchor was built by aligning peerless technique with cricket acumen, like walking slowly to the middle in overcast conditions to let the pupils dilate enough to sight the ball from the first delivery.

DRAWS MATTERED

He also played in an era when draw was an important result. Much depended on Gavaskar’s batting form when India toured as it was about facing mean fast bowlers on lively pitches without the protection of a helmet. He wore a skull cap only towards the end of his career.

What is common between Gavaskar and Kohli is a certain bloody-mindedness that is key to succeed as batsmen and feeds the captaincy.

Kohli, of course, has cranked up the aggressive quotient and is willing to settle for nothing but victory. Drawn Tests are no longer appealing.

On the 2014 New Zealand tour, Kohli spoke about the need for aggression even while playing a defensive shot, an attitude that shone through in his infancy as Test captain. Although he has since tempered that aggression, the team has responded well to his push for intent.

MATCHING NUMBERS

Kohli can be proud of the numbers. Of his 61 Tests, 30 have been as captain with an impressive batting average of 60.54, against an overall 50.12. Gavaskar led in 47 of the 125 Tests he played, in more than one term, and he averaged 50.72 (overall 51.12).

What the basic numbers prove is their ability to switch off captaincy worries once they cross the boundary rope to bat. The captain’s batting form energises the team, which has been absolutely true with Virat Kohli.

Gavaskar’s steel shone through during a phase when cricket could resemble a mortal combat against hostile pacers. Kohli is the modern version, calm to the core while chasing targets.

Cricket in the 1970s and 1980s such that India’s resilience was judged as much on draws, in Pakistan, Australia, England or the West Indies. Overall quality of talent has dipped, with the best players injured more often due to non-stop playing.

Virat Kohli is expected to go past Gavaskar’s record in this series. But captaincy and batting will be more challenging in 2018-19 with three major tours lined up.

England is one of them. Kohli will be keen to set the record straight after the 2014 failure, and play swing bowling like Gavaskar.

First Published: Nov 24, 2017 10:18 IST