India's stand-in captain Virat Kohli was very clear about what he wanted from a young side against Sri Lanka in recently-concluded five-match ODI series. He had urged his players to be as ruthless as possible against the islanders after a comprehensive win in the first match. (Kohli Rises to No. 2 in ODI Batting Charts)
Kohli lead by example as India inflicted their first-ever 5-0 sweep on Sri Lanka. The 26-year-old batsman was in peak form during the series, slamming scores of 22, 49, 53, 66 before hammering an unbeaten 139 on a rare day in the series when the top order didn't come good.
"From the first match I have spoken about creating a culture of ruthlessness and winning habit in the team, and it has come off beautifully," Kohli told BCCI's official website. In spite of having world class performers like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillekaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews, the Lankans were swept off their feet by a young Indian side.
"If I ask the guys to be ruthless while being lazy myself, I'll look stupid at the end of the day. Especially in a young team, the guys who are experienced have to lead the way. In a team, negativity can spread really quickly. You see two heads falling and six more will fall," said Kohli. (Kohli Says Field Restrictions Won't Help Batsmen in World Cup)
Chasing 287 to complete the whitewash in Ranchi, India were in serious trouble at 231/7. Fortunately for them, Kohli was in the middle, well-settled and ready to take on Ajantha Mendis, whose guile had left the Indian middle-order flummoxed on a pitch that offered considerable turn. While wickets tumbled at the other end, Kohli played some breathtaking shots to ensure India did not slip up at the last stage after dominating the entire series. (Kohli Says he Was Annoyed With India Batsmen)
Kohli said the younger players will learn from watching match-winning knocks from top stars. (Kohli Lauds Axar Patel for All-Round Show)
"The more the young guys see this kind of performances, and know that the intent and aggression is coming from the top, they would want to follow. So, I, as the captain of the team, need to be at that intensity level first before asking anyone else to be there. It's a conscious effort I have to make, and it's not that hard for me because I have always played my cricket like that."
Kohli's batting exploits are nothing new. But what stood out during the series were his leadership skills. He wanted his team to play aggressive cricket and more importantly, he was even prepared to sacrifice the number three position in the batting order for Ambati Rayudu. (India Score a Century of Wins Over Sri Lanka)
Rayudu grabbed the opportunity with both hands and that allowed Kohli to shepherd a brittle middle-order with some crucial knocks. But he gave clear indications of moving back up once MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina return.
"As long as we are strengthened in the middle order, I don't see any reason to keep batting at four. I have scored most of my centuries and won most of the games for the team at No. 3," Kohli said.
'Prince' Kohli is showing great signs to become the king. Soon!