Mike Brearley: Root not as good as ‘best in the world’ Kohli

England’s revered former captain admits “there is something ruthless about Kohli.”

Joe Root (left) and Virat Kohli have been prolific run-getters for their national teams.   -  Getty Images

Mike Brearley knows a thing or two about captaincy. He led England in 31 Tests (including, famously, Headlingley '81), building a reputation as one of the sharpest minds in the game, a man who brought the best out of his players.

Virat Kohli's leadership divides opinion but Brearley is happy with what he sees. "I quite like it. Everyone has a different style but he is very good in his own style. He is keen, hawk-eyed. It's wonderful [for Test cricket]," he says. "There is an intensity about his cricket. On occasion, it can make people nervous — I daresay — but on the whole, it animates them and dynamizes people."

Kohli is the best batsman in the world, Brearley says plainly, ahead of Joe Root. "There is something ruthless about Kohli and he converts all those fifties into hundreds and Root has got a poorer conversion rate. Root is not quite as good as Kohli but a brilliant batsman, a thoughtful and intelligent bloke.”

Too dominant?

Brearley believes Kohli's phenomenal batting will help his leadership, but wonders if he might grow to become too powerful for the team's good at some point. "[The runs in England] will be very nice for him, make it a lot easier. The one thing you wonder about Kohli is…is he going to become too dominant a figure in Indian cricket? With great respect shown to great Indian cricketers — and at the moment he is a deity in India, like the 3000th deity — will that be good for him and Indian cricket in the long run?"

Virat Kohli is a deity in India, notes Brearley. Photo: PTI

 

There is a suggestion that Kohli's aggressive behaviour on the field could be making some of his team-mates uncomfortable, but Brearley will not be drawn into commenting on it. "I don’t know because for that you have to know the dressing room and how people react. It's possible. That was said of Ian Chappell because he was very aggressive and not short of a word or two in the batsman’s ear. And I think some of the team didn’t feel that they enjoyed the same, and felt a bit on the outside. So it may be true but I have no idea if it is true."

Read: Inner belief and steel saw England through, says Root

Perhaps the bulk of the criticism Kohli's captaincy has drawn has been for his team selection. In the 36 Tests he has led the side in, India has never fielded the same XI in successive matches. 'Gut feel' is what Kohli likes to call it. Brearley is not so sure that always delivers the best results. "It is a balance," he says.

"It is a matter of personality and judgment, and sometimes it is gut feeling. But the question is how right is one’s gut feeling. On the one hand you can keep the same side going and it makes people complacent and doesn’t give other people a chance. And on the other hand you could go in the other direction and chop and change too much. I don’t know the answer to that."

Batting for Pujara

He would have chosen Cheteshwar Pujara at No. 3 ahead of K. L. Rahul for the first Test, says Brearley.

"[Pujara is] somebody who averages 50 and has played county cricket in England this year. I know he has struggled but I would have liked him to come in at No. 3. Especially since he is likely to play a steady innings, blunt Anderson and Broad, and enable Kohli to come a bit later when it is not moving a lot. This chopping and changing goes against my gut feeling. You can have gut feelings of all sorts and you can be completely right or completely wrong. So gut feeling is neither here nor there. But he is right too, you have to think about it and reflect on it and go with it because that’s how we make decisions in life anyway."

Mike Brearley has labelled the poor attendance at Test matches in India a "disaster", believing the BCCI has failed to grow five-day cricket in the country. The first Test at Edgbaston drew 75,716 spectators across the four days of play, including a capacity crowd of 23,797 on Friday.

"I think a lot of Indians will come to the other matches; English supporters usually come as well so I think we will have terrific crowds for this summer," said Brearley.

"Nowhere else do you get such good crowds, sometimes in Australia perhaps. In India, crowds for Test cricket are shocking. Top of the world (cricket) and nobody goes to watch. It's a disaster and it is a failure of the board to grow Test cricket and take a chance with day-night cricket in places where you can take people to the game. I think they (all Test nations) should try day-night matches whenever they can. You will get people watching," he added.