Should we sympathise with Virat Kohli?
I mean, come on, the guy’s been performing like a maniac over the past few months—first for Team India and then surpassing himself and everyone else with his mind-blowing feats in this year’s IPL.
Almost single-handedly taking his team to the knock-out rounds and yet so near and yet so far.
He cut a forlorn figure at the prize-distribution ceremony post the final.
The Indian media and fans have compared Kohli to that all-time great, Sachin Tendulkar.
The comparisons sometimes seem apt, sometimes odious, but it’s been about the statistics, the numbers and their stature in their respective sides.
Longevity will tell—it always does.
But what Virat has recently had a taste of is what Tendulkar and ,to an even greater extent, Brian Lara, experienced throughout their careers—their inability to carry and inspire their sides across that intangible finish line
That kind of frustration, that kind of heartbreak where you have to stand alone among the ruins requires a special kind of resolve.
Virat has it and that is what’ll make the man truly great.
Not the numbers alone, not the glory alone but the losses—the losses that hurt, the losses that build.
“My temper has been an issue for me. It has been very hard for me.”—
What he said:
“Well, i am eating the same breakfast as Virat Kohli. I think it is all about being consistent and about keeping my mind fresh.”
David Warner is quite competitive with his text messaged war of words with Virat Kohli mirroring their battle for the Orange Cap in the Vivo IPL.
“It was a vice versa about the orange cap for being the highest run-getter. He texted me the other day, saying he’s coming for the orange cap – and my reply was, i am going to come back and get it off you.”
Warner also elaborated on abstaining from alcohol:
“Look, it’s been almost a year now since i stopped drinking alcohol. I will complete a year on May 20. My wife was pregnant at that time and i thought, why not go the whole nine months without drinking too. It was just to give myself a goal, something to achieve away from cricket. I have been fortunate enough to do that so far.
Once i get to the one-year mark, i will see what to do. I might keep not drinking or i might drink, who knows.
But it’s not about drinking. It is about giving myself the best opportunity to recover and to play cricket.
I have two daughters and a fantastic wife and they provide me all the support i need to achieve goals with. There is a life after cricket as well. Cricket is not the be-all and end-all and it is about setting myself up for after cricket.
Having stability off the field is always fantastic.”
What he really meant:
“A hearty breakfast for a healthy body makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise and a contender for the Orange Cap. I’m certainly not eating text messages for breakfast.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Kellogg’s—Breakfast of Champions.”
India did not lose the T20 World Cup semi-final last night. West Indies won.
It’s time commentators and fans gave up listing reasons like the quality of the pitch and the number of no-balled chances Lendl Simmons enjoyed.
Yes, Simmons was fortunate and he made the most of it. Just like Virat Kohli did on being let off by a couple of poor throws by the fielding side.
Yuvraj Singh’s value was felt in his absence.
This West Indian side consists of T20 specialists who ply their trade around the world. They are professionals and can match the best in this format.
Simmons overcame jet-lag to single-handedly lead his side home.
What more can you ask or say? The better team on the day triumphed.
Excuses be damned.
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What he said:
“He (Virat Kohli) can even bat at midnight without light and still bat well. …
Rohit kills you with tickle and Kohli can punch you to death. Either way you are going to die.”
The original Little Master switched on his eulogistic side when Team India clinched the T20 series against Australia at Melbourne on Friday evening.
“He is setting the bar higher for the future players. He is in fantastic form… form which the players dream about. he can even bat at midnight without light and still bat well. The Australians cant get him out. They will have to wait for him to commit a mistake.
I would not bowl to both of them. Rohit kills you with tickle and Kohli can punch you to death. Either way you are going to die.
I want to see India win the series 3-0. Kohli should continue to bat at number three. Never ever flirt with form, it’s so fickle, don’t flirt with it. Yuvraj can bat during the Asia Cup, World Twenty20. Let India make a clean sweep.
He (Dhoni) has got now Yuvraj, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya in the side. He has plenty of bowling and batting options. It has eased off the pressure on him. Bhajji (Harbhajan Sigh) is sitting on the bench which means it is a very good selection. The balance is terrific. Pandya can bat at number seven and can bowl. Even if a bowler is hammered around, Dhoni can go to the other bowler.
The Aussies were under pressure and it was a good omen for the Indians for the World Twenty20.”
What he really meant:
“Kohli’s batting like a dream. If you’re a day-dreaming bowler, dreaming of bagging either or both , Rohit will tickle you out of any such fancy ideas while Kohli will match you, blow for blow. Either way, it’s death by panache.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Tickle me pink, I wonder if these two guys would love day-night Test cricket!”
Does using an on-field microphone to interact and engage with the telecasters make you a chatterbox?
Virat Kohli certainly thought so when he gave Steven Smith a fiery send-off in the first T20 against Australia.
The Test skipper—relieved of captaincy duties—was back to being the animated fury on the ground he usually is.
The Delhi cricketer is all aggro as a player and mouths expletives at the drop of a hat.
Kohli saw red when his opposing Test counterpart lost his wicket cheaply while commentating live for Channel 9.
Australian viewers were not amused with the manner of Smith’s dismissal blaming the broadcasters for disturbing his concentration.
They took in hordes to Twitter to deplore the broadcaster’s unwelcome intrusion.
What’s really going on?
Do fans really need insights from batters about what’s happening on the field?
This kind of circus is part and parcel of the Big Bash League and the Indian Premier League.
The purported purpose is to make the the viewers and the expert commentators feel part of the action.
It would be better if mic’ing up players was restricted to fielders and umpires. Bowlers and batters need to be able to focus and concentrate on how they’re to be delivering or playing the next ball. Fielding is a much more instinctive chore consisting of reacting to on-field events as they occur. Similarly, umpiring.
Batters and bowlers, however, need to plan and pace their innings and overs.
But what was the actual reason for Kohli’s acrid mouthing off and signing?
Could it be that the Indian was not pleased that Smith was shielded from the banter fielders engage in when rival batters are at the crease?
Kohli has mentioned that he sees nothing wrong with sledging the opposition.
His young Indian side is not known to hold back unlike previous Indian sides.
“The opposition has every right to sledge as long as it doesn’t not cross the line and you have every right to reply as long as it is doesn’t cross the line. There have been lot of smart comments of late and mine turned out to be a perfectly timed one.
I did not intend to do that. I just said what came to mind. It was actually not far from the truth. That banter is enjoyable but at the same time, you need to focus on the game.”
Sledgers wouldn’t enjoy their choicest jibes drowned out by commentary from the press box. Why would they? Additionally , they would have to be careful around the boffin with the microphone lest their tomfoolery be caught by the sensitive microphones.
Not much fun for the fielders. The boot would be on the other foot with them forced to be silent around a jabbering Steve Smith.
Can you see the irony in the situation?
And assuming that what the fielders said did carry to Steve Smith, how would he be able to focus with three or more sets of sounds in his eardrums?
Fielders’ banter, experts’ questions, noise from the crowd and finally the sound of his own voice.
That sounds like a lot to take in—even for a man who has scored a mountain of runs in every format over the past two years.
Kohli was the man who had a hand (and mouth) in Smith’s dismissal. Steven Smith was out for 21 off 14 balls caught by Kohli bowled Ravindra Jadeja.
Smith immediately shut up giving no further feedback to the Wide World of Sports commentary team.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had earlier criticised Spider Cam and intrusion from TV gimmicks.
Spider Cam obstructed Virat Kohli’s first scoring shot in the final ODI preventing a sure boundary. The ball was declared dead.
The operators of this novelty are known to thrust the lens right under the face of departing batsmen hoping to capture their visible disappointment for television viewers. Aussie players are accustomed to such paparazzi-like behaviour from cameramen but Indian players are disturbed and irate.
“I am quite a traditional guy. I have always felt that… anything that disturbs the game of cricket I don’t like it. It all started right from the T20 where people would be like, ‘Why don’t you wear a mic?’, ‘Why don’t you wear a camera?’
I have always felt there is a need for balance. At the end of the day it is a spectator sport, people watching on television, but at the same time four runs can matter, especially when it is a close game. Those four runs can be crucial. Everyone gets penalised, why not have the same system for the spidercam? Say, ‘Okay if you get hit, 2000 dollars per hit.’ Let’s make it interesting.
People [broadcasters] are striving for more. When you have got out and walking off, the cameraman goes right under your face. The same way the spidercam is right next to you. You have seen players, they are like, ‘What is happening?’ It makes a lot of noise. At the end of the day it is also about the spectators. If spectators are not there, cricket won’t be played. It is a mix and match; 2000 dollars per hit is a good option.”
Steve Smith called the Spider Cam “his best fielder.”
Smith was unrepentant about his mode of dismissal in the first T20 denying that his on-field commenting had anything to do with his early exit.
“It [the commentary] was on at the time, but for me it was just a bad shot.
I tried to chip one over the top for two rather than trying to hit him for four or six.
It was my fault and I got to do better next time.”
Of Kohli’s send-off, he added:
“He gets pretty emotional out there, doesn’t he?
I don’t think you need to do that kind of thing when someone gets out.
It’s fine to have a little bit of banter when you’re out in the field, but when someone’s out I don’t really think that’s on.”
Virat Kohli finally disclosed the reason for his heated reaction at Steve Smith’s dismissal.
It had nothing to do with Smith’s on-field commentating but his verbal targeting of young Indian pacers after hitting a boundary.
Kohli felt it added to the pressure on them and was simply not on. He felt that he had to step in and make his displeasure known.
Hence, the expressive ‘farewell‘.
Is Ravi Shastri transforming into an MS Dhoni clone?
Sample his recent statements about Team India’s performance Down Under:
Whether Indian batsmen were too focused on milestones:
“If they were focusing on milestones, Virat Kohli wouldn’t have been the fastest to 7000 runs; he would have taken another 100 games. If that was the case, Rohit Sharma would not be having two double hundreds, and a score of 264.”
On the bowling performance:
“Finishing touch is better bowling, and being more consistent as a bowling unit. As MS mentioned, there were too many easy boundaries. It is not like the batsmen had to earn it, they were given. That should be eliminated. Even if you cut that by 60%, we will have tighter games. Those are the areas. Attention to basics. If we do that right, who knows…
What you want to see is the bowlers learning from what has happened in the first three games. If that happens, that will be the biggest plus irrespective of the result. That is what I said last year when we played cricket in Australia. We might have lost the series 2-0, but deep inside I knew the way the boys played there was only going to be improvement.
It is a young side, there have been three debutants, we have been plagued by injuries. No excuses, I am not giving any excuses here, but it is an opportunity for the youngsters to learn. In Australia nothing comes easy. It’s one of the hardest places to play. You are playing against the world champions. The fact that you are competing, and they have competed right through this one-day series, is very good. “
On whether the team needs a psychotherapist:
“I am the shrink, don’t worry about that.As far as extra bowlers are concerned, yes we do need (them). We need bench strength. If you look at the last six days, we have been in three time zones. It is not often you go through that.
You play in Perth, get on a flight to Brisbane where the time is different, then to Melbourne where the time is different. All in a matter of six days. When you consider all that, I think the boys have done extremely well.
When it comes to bowling, what I would suggest in the future to the BCCI is to have extra players. Instead of 15 on a tour like this, probably 16 would be advisable. Somewhere in the subcontinent 15 is fine. Here, when you travel so far, and suddenly you get injuries, that is something I will suggest. At least 7-8 bowlers have to be there with the amount of cricket.”
Compare these statements against MSD’s:
“It is not about the leader. I am captain at the moment and somebody else will come later. It is more important to see the areas we are lacking, the departments which have to improve when it comes to shorter formats. We don’t have a seaming all rounder so let’s not even go to that topic. If you see this series it is a relatively inexperienced bowling lineup. Ishant Sharma has played a lot of international cricket but he is not someone who has been consistently part of the format. Umesh Yadav has been on and off and there are others who have made their debuts here. So we have to assess right now is how good the individuals are and what are they doing and what’s their rate of development.”
Don’t the duo sound about the same?
Is this the gung-ho Ravi Shastri we are all accustomed to?
Contrast these statements against those he made last year when India toured Sri Lanka.
When Team India suffered a shock defeat in the first Test in Galle under Virat Kohli:
“Let’s hope lightning doesn’t strike twice, because we will not change our style of play. Our mindset will be the same. But to close the deal you have to walk the distance and we made that mistake in the first Test. They are getting closer and for this team, it is a case of getting one on board. Then it will be the start of many. It was not a question of buckling under pressure. They go out with intent. The endeavour of this team is to play fearless cricket that comes with mindset. These boys have enough talent. I am sure they must have thought after the match why I didn’t play this shot, why I didn’t play in this manner.”
On changing their losing away record:
“You don’t come to a cricket ground to draw a match so you play a brand of cricket where you look to take the game forward and you look to take 20 wickets, that is paramount. You have got to think how you can take 20 wickets to take the game forward and win the game.”
While the Indian batting has delivered and in spades, the bowling has left a lot to be desired.
But has the Indian side really played fearless cricket in the past four games?
Can Ravi Shastri respond?
Anuraag Thakur of the BCCI vocalised his support for MS Dhoni’s continuance as skipper in the shorter formats of the game.
Dhoni has lost his last three series as captain whereas Virat Kohli has earned his stripes at home instilling aggression and dynamism that seemed lacking in recent times under MSD.
Does Team India really need two leaders? Not really. Kohli is more than capable of leading the side in all three formats. And team-members will not have to readjust every time the other takes over the reins.
Dhoni leaves behind a tremendous legacy but it’s time for a change in approach.
The losing streak has to end.
The multiple leaders theory came into existence because there were quite a few players who were unable to make the adjustment to the shorter formats. But modern cricketers are more adaptable and thus I foresee a reverse trend towards only one skipper in all three formats.
Similar changes have been effected in South Africa and Australia with Steve Smith and AB DeVilliers leading the side in both Test and ODI formats.
While there will always be Test and ODI and T20 specialists, it is the more versatile players who will be the natural leaders of cricketing sides, the ones who are able to adjust and exhibit both strategic and tactical acumen in all formats. Multi-dimensional cricketers are the need of the hour when it comes to choosing leaders.
What will Dhoni’s role in the side be? Can he continue as a player?
He’s certainly fit enough to contribute and his experience cannot be discounted.
The Big Three of Indian cricket, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid soldiered on as players much after giving up or losing out on the captaincy. Can Dhoni do an encore?
Chloe the Chicken wandered up to me and queried, “Say, do you think Virat Kohli is right?”
“Right about what?” boomed Meringue the Meerkat.
“I wasn’t speaking to you, Merry, but the question remains. Is Virat right when he says that his captaincy efforts are under-appreciated by former cricketers especially those who never represented the country?”
Popper the Parakeet squawked, “Is Virat right? Is Virat right? Is Virat right?”
I step in before the cacophony becomes more deafening.
“He’s right and he’s wrong, my friends. He’s right because South Africa were and are the No.1 Test side and had never lost overseas for the past 10 years—an enviable record. He’s wrong because the true test of a side’s and captain’s greatness lies in how they perform overseas in different and difficult conditions.”
“So, he’s right?”said Chloe the Chicken.
Chloe is a huge Virat fan and has a collection of postcards of the dashing youngster from Delhi. The ones featuring Anushka Sharma are carefully culled and snipped so as to exclude the sultry actress.
Meringue the Meerkat said, “But, don’t you think that it’s early days yet to pass judgment on Virat’s leadership? After all, he led bravely and from the front in Australia and though the side lost the series, they were not humiliated. And he’s cleared two stern tests on the sub-continent.”
Popper the Parakeet chimed in, “It’s early! It’s early! It’s early!”
“Yes, I agree. It’s too soon to tell. Dhoni had the Midas touch when he started out as Test skipper after Anil Kumble. He led Team India to the No.1 spot on the back of series victories at home. Virat could easily do the same. But we all know what followed overseas in England and Australia. And then MS lost the golden touch at home too when the English came calling.”
“True! True! True!” said Meringue the Meerkat.
“I believe that Saurav Ganguly was the best Indian skipper in recent times. He had the desire and the will to do well overseas. Similarly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble. Is Virat in that mould? Or does he prefer easy wins on muddy patches?” I added.
“Muddy patches! Muddy patches! Muddy patches!” squawked Popper the Parakeet.
“And what do you think of Virat’s statements about non-international cricketers passing judgment on his leadership? Do you agree that they don’t have the credentials to criticise Indian cricket’s latest golden boy?” moderates Chloe the Chicken.
“That’s not quite right. International cricketers are privileged to play for the country. But they have to admit that luck and timing play an important role in their turning out in Indian colors. To paint domestic players as less capable is being unfair to their efforts and feats at the state and district level. After all, these young stars don’t have a problem turning to these very same non-entities when it comes to being coached about the finer points of batting and bowling.”
“Well, well, well, that’s settled. Virat Kohli is both right and wrong. A fine batsman, a fine cricketer, a fine leader but yet to become a fine man,” responded Chloe the Chicken.
“Hear! Hear! Hear!” echoed Meringue the Meerkat.
“Hear! Hear! Hear!” echoed Popper the Parakeet too.