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Virat Kohli’s choice of Ravi Shastri reflects influence of captains in world cricket | Ian Chappell column

Virat Kohli was unhappy with Anil Kumble as head coach of Indian cricket team. Ravi Shastri returned to the job exactly a year after he had lost the race against Kumble for the chief coach’s position

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Jul 23, 2017 08:46 IST
Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
India vs Sri Lanka,Virat Kohli,Ravi Shastri
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli (2R) and newly-appointed coach Ravi Shastri (L) look on during the warm-up match against Sri Lanka Board President's XI at the Colombo Cricket Club Stadium.(AFP)

Commencing with the role Virat Kohli played in changing the Indian coach, it’s been fascinating to watch the influence of current international captains on their respective teams.

Kohli didn’t have the same harmonious relationship with Anil Kumble that he enjoyed with Ravi Shastri when he was team director. The fact that India have now reverted to Shastri as coach, begs the question; “Why change something that isn’t broken?”

The captain should have the coach he wants. If a coach is to be inflicted on a captain then at least it should be someone with whom he’s comfortable.

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On the subject of captains and selection, I’m not in favour of the skipper being on the panel. I used to believe the captain should have a vote but I was dissuaded of that notion by the wise counsel of Richie Benaud. He explained that a captain might be tempted to justify his choice by utilising a player in favourable circumstances.

Joe Root is a good example of Benaud’s theory on the captain having input into selection but not a vote. It was widely trumpeted that Root got the team of his choice before the first Test and this seemed like a good idea after England comfortably won the opening joust.

Nevertheless, the Australian fast bowlers would’ve been salivating when they saw that Root chose as his number three batsman, a Yorkshire teammate and former flat-mate in Gary Ballance. There’s no doubt Ballance is a determined cricketer and a successful first-class batsman but his flawed technique and limited range of shots isn’t suited to the number three spot in an Ashes series.

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The ideal number three should be able to take charge of an innings at some point and Ballance is too easily tied down by not only accurate pace bowlers but also good spinners. It was a strange choice when he doesn’t bat at three for his county.

The other dubious choice by Root was spinner Liam Dawson. There’s always a red flag when a spinner is chosen because he can make runs; England already hava a capable one of those in Moeen Ali and he’s a better bowler than Dawson. On the evidence of Lord’s, it’s time Ali was recognised as England’s premier spinner.

The England hierarchy, perhaps blinded by their success in the shorter forms of the game, have been guilty of picking too many supposed two-way players in the Test side. They have two extremely efficient allrounders in Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes (when he’s fit); they need to fill the other nine spots with specialists.

After England’s comprehensive first Test victory, Root hinted that he’d like a stronger challenge from his opponents. This comment comfortably resides in the category of “be careful what you wish for”; England went from 211 run victors to 340 run losers in the space of a week.

A cheeky opponent might ask; “Is that the type of challenge you were looking for Joe?”

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One big difference between the first and second Test was the presence of du Plessis at the helm of the South African side. It’s no coincidence that it resulted in a much-improved performance from South Africa.

Du Plessis is a hard grafting cricketer but a natural captain. He impressed with his leadership in South Africa’s series win in Australia and his firm hand was again evident at Trent Bridge.

Good captaincy is hard to define but you know it when you see it.

Sometimes it can be as simple as du Plessis’ encouragement to Chris Morris; “Bowl as fast as you can and forget about everything else.”

This had the desired effect, as following that advice Morris turned an unimpressive opening spell of three expensive overs, into match-changing figures of 5/45.

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It’s notable that South Africa achieved their massive turnaround without a coach, as Russell Domingo had returned home due to the unfortunate death of his mother.

The moral of this story? Make sure you appoint the right skipper, ensure a strong selection panel and only then worry about finding the appropriate coach.

(Ian Chappell, former Australia cricket team captain, writes exclusively for Hindustan Times. Views expressed are personal)

First Published: Jul 23, 2017 08:42 IST