R. Sridhar remembers the time when Virat Kohli was elevated as India’s Test captain in 2014 after Mahendra Singh Dhoni stepped down. With Dhoni making a sudden exit, it was a challenge for Kohli to fill into his shoes, but over the next seven years, he did it with elan.
In the 68 Test outings as captain, Kohli led India to 40 wins and 11 draws. While the winning percentage remained 58.82, the team suffered just 17 defeats in his tenure - the recent being the last Test against South Africa.
A day after Kohli decided to step down as the Test captain, Sridhar - who was the fielding coach of the Indian team for seven long years, before quitting in November last year - lists down a few moments that defined Kohli the captain.
I can recall the second Test match in P. Sara Oval in 2015 after we lost in Galle. The way he marshalled the resources and what he wanted from the batting and the bowling units, especially in the second innings [Ajinkya Rahane scored a century in the second innings, while Ravichandran Ashwin claimed a five-for] was a galvanising moment for him as a captain. We went on to win the series 2-1 despite losing the first Test. That was a huge achievement.
His aggression and the ability to fight was highlighted once again in 2017 when he led the team from the front in the second Test against Australia at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. We had just lost the first Test in Pune, and he did everything possible to get the best out of the players and help the team fight back. The way he brought the team together and the way he plotted with Ashwin to come up with a strategy was a fabulous thing. That yielded results as Ashwin claimed six wickets in the second innings, while Jadeja had figures of 6-63 in the first innings. The fact that Virat could motivate the players and regroup them for the crucial game was evident in that Test, which eventually paved the way for a series win.
We had lost the first two Tests and then decided to bat first on a venomous track. He motivated the team and made them ready for the challenge. Virat scored 54, while Cheteshwar Pujara scored 50 in the first innings. It was an incredible Test match, which proved his character as the captain.
While Sridhar will always remember these three outings, he believes that there are a few factors that made Kohli a perfect leader - he was never hesitant to take a tough call for the best interest of the team and he could execute his plans.
“The most important factor, according to me, was the fact that he shifted from a four-bowler theory to a five-bowler theory. That was a huge shift in mindset. I remember he would tell the batters about the importance of taking more responsibility. With an additional bowler in the team, you did not need a batter, so he wanted the specialist batters to step up and take more responsibility. Unless there was an injury scare, Virat made sure that he was sticking to the five-bowler theory. That move eventually had huge benefits as Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur emerged as formidable all-rounders for the side, along with Ravichandran Ashwin,” Sridhar says.
“There was no discussion on that. It was a vision that came from Virat and that’s something we agreed upon. The captain wanted to bring in a new idea and it was our job to get the team ready and realise his vision. That’s why, Stuart Binny was flown in for a Test match in Sri Lanka in 2015 as an all-rounder and he played. To Virat and Ravi [Shastri], it was a no-brainer - we knew that if it was a Test match, then we would definitely go for five bowlers. Virat was clear about it and all of us were on the same page.”
Red ball cricket the key
“Ever since taking charge, Virat knew that red ball cricket will be his priority and for him, that was everything. He did everything possible to improve things in the longer format and we eventually managed to do that.”
Fielding is non-negotiable
“For Virat Kohli, the captain - fielding was non-negotiable. He knew that red ball cricket was a test of everything and fitness was a part of it. He told everyone in the team that we have to be the fittest and that’s where the fitness tests and other things came in for the players to be fit for Test cricket. He made a fitter Indian team.”
Every game is a home game
“He brought a change in mindset. He made the team realise that every game is a home game, even though you were playing overseas. He brought this culture along with Ravi that we are going to treat every game as if we are playing at home. The idea was clear - we have to adapt to each and every situation and play accordingly.”
“Most importantly, Virat wanted to achieve the difficult things. He wanted the players to embrace the most difficult situations. He told the players that on a green wicket, you would want to bat first, while on a paata wicket [flat deck], bowlers expect that you are going to bowl first. So, to make sure that you are not caught unawares, mental preparation was the utmost. He wanted the players to be prepared for the most difficult situation and that hard work paid off as teams could fight out every situation and eye more success.”
From 2014 to 2022 - it was an incredible seven years for Kohli, the captain. While his success rate made him the best Indian captain in Tests, there have been several obstacles in the way, too. But keeping faith in himself, Kohli has been able to turn disappointments into success.
- Mitrovic’s late brace helps seal a huge win for Al Hilal against Ronald’s Al Nassr in Saudi Pro League
- Al Hilal vs Al Nassr Highlights, HIL 3-0 NAS, Saudi Pro League: Savic, Mitrovic scores, Ronaldo’s goal ruled off side
- Aston Villa makes official complaint to UEFA after Legia Warsaw violence
- India Women’s squads for Tests, England T20Is announced: Saika Ishaque, Shubha Satheesh get maiden call-ups
- SA vs IND: Sai Sudharsan ‘lost for words’ after maiden India call-up for South Africa ODIs