5 reasons why Virat Kohli is the most influential captain in cricket
Virat Kohli has achieved the unbelievable. 71 years, 292 players, 29 captains and 31 Test series - this is how the past Asian teams fared in Australia, and yet none of them could achieve Test glory.
Some of them were the greatest, but somehow even they fell short of conquering Australia in Australia. India's success down-under has reinstalled a new kind of self-belief in the Indian team, and the whole and sole credit should go to skipper Kohli.
MS Dhoni, the final piece from the "Golden Era", had announced his retirement in Tests in late 2014 and it was a shock to many including his successor. However, Kohli who was Dhoni's deputy for more than two years had picked up the right things which plagued Indian cricket, especially overseas.
Kohli, who is known to have an astute mind understood that the game was about small margins and percentages and India had to be fitter and stronger to compete against stronger sides in their backyard.
It all started when he emphasized the development of fast-bowlers and playing to win. Kohli made his team realize that it was Test cricket which was paramount and the team needs to improve its Test performances if Indian cricket has to be respected worldwide.
On that note, let's look at the five reasons which make Kohli the most influential Indian captain and arguably the most dynamic captain in world cricket.
#1 Walk the Talk
Kohli is known for his press conferences and confident statements before a big series. The two most popular words used by him are "intent" and "mindset." He has always walked the talk and never refrained from expressing what seems right to him. When others were struggling around him, he has shown them the way.
When India was set a daunting target of 364 in Adelaide, Kohli wanted to chase it down and not play for a dull draw. He scored a valiant 141, albeit in a losing cause, but probably played the best counter-attacking innings by an Indian in Australia.
Similarly, when the Indian batting order was struggling in England in 2018, it was Kohli who suggested to his batsman to have a plan for the first thirty balls, and assured them that things would get more comfortable. He scored 593 runs with two centuries and played his first thirty balls with a lot of intensity and focus, throughout the course of the series.
#2 Focus on fitness
From the time Kohli stepped in as captain, he has given an extra focus towards fitness and training methods. He wants his team to be the best fielding team which can happen only through fitness. The star man once mentioned in one of his interviews - 'the difference between a simple catch and a great attempt'.
Kohli has also given prime importance to running between the wickets and speed of the bowlers. He has now made the yo-yo test mandatory which has given the selectors a benchmark to select the fittest players along with their recent or domestic performances.
Shankar Basu, who has trained Kohli during his IPL stints is the fitness trainer who has worked explicitly with every player to make him adhere to the grueling requirements of International cricket.
And as one can see, the Indian team of the early 2000s, which had weak links on the field, is now a revitalized force of energetic professionals.
Virat had once popularly told that self-belief and hard work would earn one success. He has religiously followed this in his cricket career, and now his infectious attitude has started to show on his team-mates as well. Irrespective of the game situation, this Indian team under Kohli never loses self-belief, backs its strengths and plays with a lion-hearted attitude. He makes them believe that they are the best and they mean business all the time.
The most prominent example from 2018 was how India bounced back against South Africa after being 2-0 down. Indian team was written off and criticized by the media, but Kohli stuck to his words that his team will bounce back in the third test at Johannesburg.
On a treacherous pitch, he had no inhibitions in batting first and even though India was bowled out for 187, he backed his bowlers, who rattled South Africa for 194.
When the pitch started to show its tricks, Indians took giant strides and set South Africa a daunting target of 241. Even though the South Africans at one point were 128 for 1, he stuck to his bowlers, who eventually granted the nation a historic win.
#4 Playing to win - the attack-minded spirit
Indian team under Kohli has always looked to win.
After he had scored a masterful 55 of 37 balls in the World T20 2016 against Pakistan in Kolkata, the great man said that victory was his biggest feeling and also his greatest craving. When he took up test captaincy, he made it clear that this Indian team will never play for dull draws. Instead, they will lose a few to win. This has made the team more confident as every player knows what they should execute to make the team victorious.
For instance, Ishant Sharma for a very long time was always a bowler who would bowl a sharp spell in patches. Going by his recent performances in 2018, he seems to have got his radar right and always tries to pick up wickets. Ravi Ashwin, who bowled defensive lines in previous tours now attacks the stumps on a regular basis and tries picking wickets.
These changes have come because Kohli wants his team to attack, attack and attack and thus, be the best in the world.
#5 Habit of developing youngsters
Kohli is always on the look-out for match-winners who can close out games for India. This makes him experiment with the team combination on a regular basis. Even though he has faced criticism, he pushes the youngsters by giving them essential roles and thereby, unlocking their true potential.
When someone asked him in the post-match press conference after Sydney Test to single out one performance which stood out for him, he mentioned the courage shown by the openers Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal against the new ball in MCG. Kohli highlighted the importance of Vihari playing out 66 balls, even though he only scored eight runs.
Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj, Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer are the ones who are developing under Kohli, and in the years to come, he will unearth a few more gems to leave Indian cricket in a much bigger and better space.