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Virat Kohli's enormous influence on the Indian team

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Virat_Kohli_India_cricketIt has only been a couple of years since Virat Kohli took over the mantle of Test captaincy from MS Dhoni and in this short span of time he has exceeded all expectations, thus taking India to new heights in Test cricket.

He is not totally new to this captaincy thing. He successfully captained the Indian Under-19 team to U-19 World Cup victory back in 2008. However, it still requires a responsible mindset, a fearless attitude and most importantly, a clear vision to lead the team at the highest level. It is also extremely important that the other players in the team are willing to look up to you as a leader, respect your decision as a captain and respond to the situation accordingly. And Kohli has earned every bit of that; through his performances, commitment towards the team and the game and the respect that he gives to his team members.

Kohli’s golden run as a player in recent times has had a positive influence on the mindset of the Indian team as a whole. He took over as the captain of the Test side at a time when India were on a streak of consecutive overseas series defeats under Dhoni’s leadership.

When Dhoni brought an abrupt end to his Test career in the middle of the 2014/15 tour of Australia, the morale and confidence of the team was totally down. It was only something inspirational and motivational that was going to lift them up and drag them out of the doldrums and let them sail freely again. And India got that motivation and inspiration from their new Captain Virat Kohli.

Whenever I watch this Indian team play, I always feel like there is something new about them. There is a renewed aggression, sense of responsibility, flair, grit and determination that was lacking before Kohli’s tenure as the skipper.

It is simply the reflection of the aggressive, positive, committed and hard-working mindset that Kohli has brought to the plate as a captain.

 

Often, a team’s performance is a direct reflection of its captain’s performances and so it needs a skipper who can lead from the front. He should stand tall in times of adversity and dig his team out of trouble, be intimidating enough for the opposition to fear and respect him, and most importantly, have the respect and trust of his team-mates. And Virat Kohli has stood firmly in each of those aspects in the past couple of years to bring the Indian Test team to the position they are in today.

There is no doubt that Dhoni is one of the best limited overs captains ever to grace the history of cricket. However, his approach to captaincy in the longer format of the game didn’t seem to work out properly towards the end of his Test career. He believed in sticking to a winning combination rather than changing up the squad according to the conditions of the game. He was quite a strict captain who believed more in a disciplined and controlled approach to leadership. He treated each individual in a team as a professional and tried to get the most out of them. He seemed to be too dependent on his spinners, but was low on confidence when it came to relying on his pacers.

Often, he could be seen pointing out the mistakes of individual players after a loss, even his own. It was not because he liked doing so, but because he had a strong sense of professionalism and believed that there is no room for mistakes when someone is representing their country at the highest level.

Although that approach worked for a certain period, as long as the legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan kept playing, the team became too defensive in the ensuing years with the influx of the new players and their failure to cope with that approach.

It looked like it was time for someone young to lead this new pack, and Dhoni was wise enough to hand the captaincy over to the rising legend Virat Kohli.

 

On arrival, Kohli brought with him the winds of change. He was exactly the leader that the Indian Test side needed to succeed in the long run. The first visible change that could be seen in his approach towards captaincy was that he was flexible when selecting a squad. He didn’t believe in always fielding the same winning combination; he believed in fielding the best possible line-up that would suit the playing conditions. Another change that he brought about was making the pacers feel like a core part of his team, which was not the case during Dhoni’s tenure.

And most importantly, he would judge the performance of the team as a whole instead of judging each individual. He believes in team performance more than individual performance. Anybody can have a bad game, but it is the responsibility of the team as a whole to make up for that individual. And in the case of a loss, he would just back his team to come out even stronger next time instead of pointing out their mistakes.

Thus, there has been a total change in the mindset of the team in the past couple of years under Kohli’s leadership, and it will only get better with coming time.

In my opinion, it won’t be long before India goes on to win all around the world and replicate the success of the Australian team that dominated the world for two decades.

This is a new Indian team, or rather, Captain Kohli’s team!

 

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Prasenjit, a techie by profession and Sports writer by passion, hails from the 'City of Joy'-Kolkat...

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