All the hoopla over Virat Kohli taking over as Test captain from MS Dhoni is now settling in. There have been calls for a while over Kohli replacing Dhoni. The latter's retirement, and Kohli taking over leadership is definitely a step in the right direction. At the same time, the change in captaincy cannot guarantee a change in fortunes for the Indians, as was evident in the two Tests that Kohli led India in Down Under. He batted magnificently in both the games at Adelaide and Sydney without doubt. But, as far as captaincy is concerned, he still has a lot to learn.
Of course, one cannot be too harsh on Kohli since he is still relatively young, and is also new to the job of leadership. At the same time, Kohli has to make sure that he learns quickly. In international cricket, it doesn't take long before a captain's limitations are exposed. And, teams around the world will already be looking at Kohli and his performance as leader in the two Tests so far. Kohli has led from the front with the bat no doubt, but it is on his tactical acumen and maturity as a captain that he will be judged at the end of his tenure.
It is often said that a captain is only as good as his team. At the same time, there have been many leaders who have been able to bring the best out of players with limited ability. Take the case of Allan Border in the 1987 World Cup. Among captains, his example is often sighted when it comes to speaking about a leader who turned a bunch of no-hopers into match-winners. The Pakistan team that won the World Cup in 1992 wasn't exceptionally talented either, but they had a great leader in Imran Khan, who inspired them through thick and thin. Not least of all, Stephen Fleming managed to lead the Kiwis with distinction for a decade.
Kohli can take heart from the fact that he isn't the first captain to take over reins at a young age. In fact, Fleming and Graeme Smith were far younger, and possessed even lesser international experience when they took over leadership. However, they grew into the job, and ended up being distinctly successful. The key for Kohli is to mature into the role of a leader as soon as possible. He must pick up the nuances of leadership from experienced opposition skippers, and imbibe the same while developing his own style. From the kind of field placings he set up at Sydney, it is clear that he didn't know much about that aspect of the game.
Aggression is undoubtedly Kohli's greatest asset as a batsman. And, for sure, he will try to inculcate the same in his leadership as well. But, captaincy is vastly different from batting, and Kohli will have to ensure that he channels the aggression in the right direction. Just mouth-blabbering will not work against sides like Australia and South Africa. Kohli's positive intent must be evident in the kind of bowling changes he makes, and the fields he sets. Above all, he must remember that as leader, one has to carry the team together. While batting, one can go along alone as well. But, leadership will present vastly different challenges for Kohli.
--By A Cricket Analyst