India in Australia: Is Virat Kohli Set to Usher in New Era as Test Captain?
India's first Test against Australia in Brisbane may or may not make or break Virat Kohli as captain but it will give India a peak into the future.
Virat Kohli has seen it all in his brief international career. The aggressive Delhi batsman is counted among the best ODI batsmen in the world, has broken records once held by stalwarts like Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar and has shown his aptitude as a leader, standing in for the inimitable Mahendra Singh Dhoni. (Kohli Dares Australia)
Kohli, merely 26, however is at the crossroads of what promises to be a legendary career. Three years after he first toured Australia as a young talent bristling with energy and fight, he has been named captain for the first Test in Brisbane as Dhoni continues to recover from a cracked thumb.(Ganguly Unimpressed With India's Preparation for Australia)
Critics, experts and teammates have hailed Kohli's aggressive intent on the field. As skipper, he has not shied away from urging his men to be ruthless and win at all costs. Two 5-0 whitewashes look great on his captaincy resume but they have come against lowly Zimbabwe and an unwilling Sri Lanka in favourable home conditions.(Kohli Says Issues Off the Field Won't Affect Team India)
Leading against Australia in Australia will be a different kettle of fish. In alien and difficult conditions Down Under, Kohli's fire will be matched by Aussie gunfire. Their players, media and fans will breathe down India's neck all the time. He has of course, had considerable success there in 2011, standing out with a gutsy half-century and a maiden ton in an otherwise horror Test series for the visitors. Many believe, there is no reason why he cannot beat Australia in their own again, this time as captain.('Kohli Will Enjoy Test Captaincy in Australia')
Team Director Ravi Shastri feels Kohli will not appear to be a novice as Test skipper. Having tasted success in ODIs will give Kohli much-needed confidence. He has great allies in the side, with most players aligning with his way of thinking. This Indian team does not carry the baggage of the 4-0 whitewash Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Dhoni were meted out.
In fact, the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant Sharma were part of the side that annihilated Michael Clarke's men 4-0 in a revenge series at home last year. They will draw confidence from that triumph and Kohli will be eager to stamp his authority on a team that could soon be his. Dhoni will make room for his lieutenant at some point in the recent future and it could be a golden chance for him to assert his impression as a strong leader.
This may not exactly be a make-or-break series for Kohli the captain. He is still young and mighty confident of his abilities. But what he does in the first Test at Brisbane as skipper will leave a lasting impression on his colleagues. He has already made the right noises, daring Australia in their own backyard and challenging the dangerous Mitchell Johnson.
Kohli showed his human side in the aftermath of the Phillip Hughes tragedy. The stand-in India captain was among the first to tweet a speedy recovery after the Australian batsman fell unconscious at the Sydney Cricket Ground - Kohli was prompt to tweet his condolences once the 25-year-old breathed his last. Like many great leaders before him, Kohli has started to understand where to draw the fine line between cricket and life.
He may have started off as a capricious young man but today he is far more polished. Kohli channels his aggression for the need of the team and believes ardently in leading from the front. In his own words, a captain calling for ruthless performances will look silly if he doesn't deliver himself. Kohli asks his men to give their best and then does the exact same himself.
Will Kohli be strong enough to take on the heat in Australia? Will he stand up and be counted among the best? Will his debut Test as captain tell us what the future has in store for Indian cricket? Only time will tell.
Test captaincy is not an easy job and certainly not any easier in the harsh world of Australian fields. Strategies, tactics and plans discussed within the walls of the dressing-room and team hotel could soon fall flat on the face. That is where Kohli the man and captain will have to emerge and show his young side the kind of leader he is.