Another series, another victory. Virat Kohli must be feeling this Test cricket business is quite easy.
Nearly two years into his captaincy reign, Kohli still seems to be in the honeymoon phase. New Zealand fought hard over the three Tests, even though the margins of victory belie that fact. But Kohli emerges from another series with flying colours.
So how did he fare, individually? Here’s a review of the captain’s performances in his various capacities in the side.
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. It was a series of two halves for Kohli the batsman. His scores in the first three innings of the series read: 9, 18, 9. It was a continuation of his poor run in the West Indies after the 200 in the first innings. Going further back, it was a continuation of his poor run in Test matches in India.
Against South Africa, he did not go past 50 till the final innings of the four match series. India kept winning, but his personal batting form in home Tests was starting to become a genuine area of concern. Rock-solid on the Australian pitches and struggling in India — he was breaking the convention of an Indian Test batsman.
“I don’t think there’s anything called form. It’s about how you feel on that particular day,” said Kohli ahead of the 2nd Test. “It’s about how good you’re mentally. It’s about being stable in our heads, when you get runs and when you don’t. You’ve to accept that you can’t score runs every time.”
And then came the crucial second innings in Kolkata. His 44 at the Eden Gardens will not feature anywhere close on the list of his top efforts when he hangs his boots up, but if Kohli goes on to have a successful domestic season in 2016-17, he will look back fondly at those 82 minutes he spent in the middle against a spirited Kiwi bowling attack, on the prowl, in the ascendancy, looking to fight their way back into the match. But they ran into Kohli. And then Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha. And that was it for the Black Caps.
He followed that up with his best Test innings till date. It was the most un-Virat-esque innings of his Test career so far. He was patient, he was calculative, he barely lofted the ball off the deck. It was his slowest century till date. But he showed the will to be patient — something he did not against South Africa.
And that’s why his second double hundred augurs well for India. Kohli, despite the hype around him, is yet to arrive as a brilliant batsman at the Test level but that knock in Indore might just be the beginning.
Played: 17, Won: 10, Drawn: 5, Lost: 2
Team India is now undefeated in 13 Test matches. Forget losing a Test match, Kohli has not lost a toss on home soil yet. And now with the mace back in India’s hands, the World No. 1 status is here to stay for a while.
Admittedly, it is still difficult to analyse Kohli as a captain. His win percentage is quite incredible but some of the decisions he takes on the cricket field are still difficult to understand. Short spells to spinners when they are looking to settle into a rhythm, in-out field even for new batsmen — Kohli confounds the viewers and analysts.
But the most encouraging aspect of his captaincy is how he is evolving and learning as he goes. He has shown the willingness to be patient if the opponents stitch together a partnership. He has been innovative with his field placements. And after talking repeatedly about the five-bowler theory, he has shown the flexibility to pick the XI that are best suited for the conditions, backing Rohit to come good at No 6. Selecting Bhuvneshwar over Umesh for the 2nd Test was a selection master-stroke as well.
England at home will be a much sterner Test but for now, Indian cricket is in safe hands and all that.
We have seen Kohli win Test matches with his bat and under his captaincy. But during the New Zealand series, we saw the cheerleader in Kohli be at the top of his game too. During the second Test in Kolkata, Kohli took it upon himself to get the crowd involved in the game. More than 10,000 spectators showed up on each of the four days but in a stadium that can house nearly a 100,000 — it is difficult to create an atmosphere going inside the stadium with numbers like that.
But Kohli managed it fine. Look at him go here:
If you were watching the action unfold on television on days three and four, you would have been forgiven for thinking the stadium was packed. Srinath Sripath, a Mumbai resident who was present at the Eden Gardens, said it felt like an ODI or IPL game at times and described it as the most partisan Indian venue among all the ones he’s been to. Kohli thanked the crowd at the end of the match and cheekily credited them for the getting the wickets. The man can read a pulse, that’s for sure.
“You have to interact with them, you have to make sure they are a part of the whole thing. It just creates an energy and you feed off on that. It happens so much in limited overs, so why not in Test cricket?”
Kohli knows that, as the captain of the Indian Test cricket team, part of the responsibility to bring the crowds back to the stadium for the longer format lies with the team. And like Ashwin said at the end of Indore Test, it felt like the 90s all over again.
The might just be the biggest positive for Indian cricket from this series.
Featured image: BCCI