The lion that got tamed
I’ve been a lifelong Kohli critic. And when I engage in cricket gupshup with my circle, I am unequivocal about it. I’m quick to be frustrated looking at his repetitive dismissals owing to the tentativeness outside the off-stump, edging it to the slips and also prompt enough to mock his consistent failures as a Royal Challengers Bangalore captain in IPL. This is not because I’m unwilling to make him my most favourite cricketer [Sachin, then Dhoni, in that order] and also not because I’m afraid their records will be broken by this new age, boisterous star. It’s purely out of the need to counter the lopsided support he receives within my cricketing circle. The question deep down being: Yes, he has the potential to be the most successful Indian captain (better than Ganguly & Dhoni) and the most successful Indian batsman (better than Gavaskar & Tendulkar), but will that remain an unmet potential? Is he peaking too early and too fast?
Ofcourse I’m not a pundit. Heck, I can’t even bat/bowl that merits a spot on the school cricket team. But, as an Indian kid, born & raised on a daily dose of cricket, I have opinions, at times, strong ones.
And all these criticisms and worries aside, what provokes me to pen my thoughts today is the news of a lion being tamed. Lion is the king of the jungle and he is never one to be tamed, he’d rather prefer death over the cage. But, as I stumbled upon, @ 1:22pm GMT during random Twitter expeditions on a Sunday, even that storyline got rewritten.
I’m left surprised, disappointed, anxious and afraid. And I do feel shortchanged by BCCI, by Ganguly, by Jay Shah and to some extent by Kohli himself.
Surprised, at the timing of the announcement. For a single overseas series defeat, 1–2 from a 1–0 lead isn’t particularly laudable but that doesn’t necessarily warrant stripping off the title from statistically the most deserving steward of Indian cricket. Bear in mind, this series was played in a country where India has never managed to win a series.
What seemed like a historic series, remains historic, but for rather unpleasant reasons, especially for a young Indian fan.
Disappointed, as the team had an amazing 5 year run under the skipper and feels like his streak got cut short way too early and in a tame fashion.
Anxious, as I look at the future; for everywhere I look, I see a pale shadow of the captain. Rohit is probably the incoming Test captain [followed by T20 captaincy he was recently handed]. By any stretch of imagination, I don’t see him leading the team the way Kohli did. Going into every match with the right intensity and desire to win the game; setting an example by scoring and fielding; among the few notable traits that Kohli brings to the table. For starters, Rohit has to up his fitness. Otherwise, Indian team would be taking a step back (if not more) after taking 10 steps forward in the fitness and fielding department. If not Rohit (when he’s injured for instance), the other options don’t look that exciting either. KL Rahul still has a lot to prove, especially in the test format, by showing consistency across various countries and tracks. Rishabh Pant, barring that single splendid knock in Gabba, has been one mercurial character India doesn’t know what to do with and expect from. To his credit, the final test in this series, second innings, presented Pant with a decent opportunity to silence his critics, which he did by knocking off a spectacular 100. But, it’s the manner in which he gets out on critical occasions, in the first two tests of this series, more than once, that’s baffling and uncharacteristic of a matured middle order batsman. I understand the desire to let him play his natural game, which is pinch-hitting, but since this is Test cricket and not T20s there’s a time and place for that, other than the first ball.
Surprise, disappointment and anxiety, after the resignation of a top quality skipper are expected and a given. But, it is the fear that sends the alarm 🛎 ringing, which is nerve wracking and unsettling. It seems that the politics, ego-wars and battle for power is creeping back into the Indian cricket. Add to that, the gaping hole left by the triumphant previous skipper. All this makes me wonder, had he kept his aggression in check, had he chosen his battles selectively and smartly, would the outcome be any different? Was this an event begging to happen, especially after the recent mudslinging between BCCI chief and the team captain?
In hindsight, I’d have preferred a bit more diplomatic Kohli for a longer Test tenure over unabashed, no-holds-barred Kohli for 68 tests.
The silver lining to all this is the potential of a Kohli 2.0. With no captaincy duties to pose distraction, this might just turn the switch and allow Kohli to let his bat do the talking. With under par 2020 & 2021, certainly by his lofty standards, a healthy streak of big knocks is long due & this announcement might just be the catalyst for the same.
All of this is wishful thinking and speculation and what the future holds for Indian test cricket remains to be seen. But what’s happened as a result of his resignation is, the end of the most enthralling and exciting chapter scripted by the most successful Indian test captain, Virat Kohli.