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Opinion

Virat Kohli should be a politician

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Roar Guru
8th September, 2021
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One of the many roles any captain has to take on is that of diplomat. As captain of a Test nation like India, this role assumes huge importance when playing in a series against an old foe like England.

As is the case these days, Virat Kohli conducted interviews straight after the fourth Test victory. Here’s a sample of his comments.

“We’ve shown time and time again that we are a top side.”

“That’s because of the belief and the passion that we have in this group. A lot of people after Leeds really stood up and said, ‘will India be able to come back?'”

“This win is as special as Lord’s, if not more.”

“This group of players, they just want to win, to win badly and find ways to win. That’s a real hallmark of our side. This group of players has done a lot of firsts, and that can’t be ignored.

“If you focus on stats and numbers and personal performances, you cannot do things like this. If you focus on team goals and wanting to win at any cost, then you get special victories like this.”

Virat Kohli’s captaincy is characterised by his passion, his desire to win and his love of his team. He’s made a number of sweeping statements in his excitement after the win at The Oval, so let’s see how much of these words are joyful rhetoric and how many are genuinely factual.

To begin, let’s do as Virat suggests and not focus on stats, numbers and personal performances, just yet.

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Virat Kohli.

(Photo by Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images)

India suffered some injury problems and three players, Shubman Gill, Washington Sundar and fast bowler Avesh Khan, have not been able to play any part in this series.

England too have had their injury concerns. Stuart Broad has missed all but the first Test, Ollie Pope has only now come back into the team, while the big outs have been Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes.

Of India’s injured players, it’s arguable whether any would have played a Test to date. Gill may have opened with Rohit Sharma, but obviously KL Rahul would have provided stiff competition.

In the pecking order of Indian spinners, Ravi Ashwin would certainly be ahead of Sundar, while Khan, as a debutant, would not have been likely be a chance to play unless there were a lot of injuries.

On the England side however, Pope, Broad, Stokes and Archer would have been among the first picked. So, in reality, a near full-strength Indian team has drawn the first Test, won the second, lost the third and won the fourth against an England team missing 37 per cent of its best players.

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Kohli also mentioned the defeat at Headingley, but couched his comments in such a way that what was a humiliating first innings with the bat and a subsequent heavy loss, is now a positive. In pollie-speak, this is classic deflection.

He does more deflecting when he talks about focusing on team goals and results.

In one way, he’s completely correct when he talks about “team goals” and “(the team) wanting to win at all costs”.

The Indian Test team in recent times have found a way to get wins, when a defeat or draw seemed far more likely. I’m also presuming the Adelaide Test and the loss inflicted by New Zealand in the World Test Championship final has been erased from the team psyche!

Again, though, this deflects from a hard reality. The batting line-up has shown significant frailties in the past 12 months, with only one or two batsmen showing any sort of good, consistent form.

Virat Kohli of India

Kohli has had his own struggles with the bat (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Those members of the team who have been the key players in getting results, have largely been the bowlers, with both ball and bat.

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In this Test, India were 7 for 127 in the first innings and only made a competitive total thanks to the bowlers. In their other win at Lord’s, they were 7 for 194 in the second innings and only made a defendable total thanks to the bowlers. In the Test match India lost, it’s no coincidence the bowlers didn’t make runs.

Of the batsmen, only Rohit and Rahul have enhanced their averages and reputations. Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Kohli’s numbers are well down, as are Pant’s, though all received a healthy boost from batting on a very flat track at The Oval.

If the team has to rely so heavily on its bowlers to both take wickets and make runs, does that make this a “top team”?

I have a lot of admiration for Virat Kohli, the emotional leader, who clearly loves winning and loves his team doing well, individually and collectively.

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I wonder though about Virat Kohli, the dispassionate leader, who must realise both he and a few of his fellow batsmen are underperforming.

That the “team efforts” he’s referring to, are really a few outstanding efforts from only a handful of players in his team.

That England are down on troops and quality players at that.

Granted, he and the Indian team can only beat the English XI that takes the field, but I’d have thought Indian fans should have expected more, given the differences in personnel. I’d also suggest that India might be behind in this series of all players from both squads were fit.

Just like any politician, words can only go so far and, yes, it was a great win in London, but the fans who support India will want those words backed up with actions. This means India either have to win at Old Trafford, or have the better end of a draw.

If not, just like a politician, Kohli’s recent words might come back to bite him.

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