Aggression: What's the Definition Anyway?
Aggressive cricketers have always made headlines more than passive ones. How much aggression though is too much? India's two captains seem to have different takes on that.
A charged up fast bowler, breathing fire, smoke coming out of his nostrils runs up to the bowling crease, a cherry-coloured grenade in hand. The projectile makes the batsman at the other end duck. The bowler stares at the batsman and when there's eye contact, he says things you will never find on any greeting card. The next delivery, there's more chatter from the bowler. He wants to make sure the batsman is petrified, charging up to him and stopping just short of making physical contact. Third delivery, the bowler finally gets the breakthrough he was aiming for. The theatrics pay off, the battle has been won and the batsman walks back with his tail between his legs, or at least that's what the bowler thinks as he beats his chest in glee, a victory ritual to mark a new conquest. These aren't scenes confined to just cricket fiction. This happens around the world. The question though is - when it comes to aggression on a cricket pitch, how much is too much? (India vs South Africa Preview)
After a long time in Indian cricket, two different individuals find themselves as captains of the different formats. One is calm and composed; the other vocal and in your face. Both are great cricketers, but their definitions of aggression are very different. (Five Talking Points Ahead of T20 Series)
After Ishant Sharma's super-aggressive show vs Sri Lanka, where the fast bowler returned figures of 8/86 in the last Test and helped India seal their first Test series triumph in Sri Lanka in 22 years, Indian Test captain Virat Kohli said, "An angry fast bowler is a captain's delight." Ishant picked up a one-Test ban for his over-the-top aggression, but the team had what it wanted so badly - a series win. The ultimate goal was realised. (India Hold The Advantage Over Proteas in T20Is)
But Indian ODI and T20 captain, MS Dhoni has always been much more conservative in his approach. When asked about aggression on the field and how much is too much on the eve of the first T20 vs South Africa, Dhoni replied, "Sometimes we think that saying something on the field or physical contact is aggression. But aggression is not about that. Slowly our players are also learning to channelise their aggression. It's good to be aggressive but within the guidelines. We have to make sure there is no disciplinary action against any player. We want to play good, aggressive cricket but within the guidelines." (Dhoni Takes a Jibe at Kohli, Says Aggression Different From Misbehaviour)
Former India captain Rahul Dravid is possibly one of the least aggressive players cricket has ever had. Dhoni though doesn't think so. For him what Dravid did with his bat was aggressive enough. Dhoni told the media, "If you ask Rahul Dravid, he will tell you aggression is a good forward defence to a very quick fast bowler." (South Africa Ready to Unleash Pace Attack, Says Domingo)
Contrast that with what Virat had said after India's series win vs Sri Lanka. Ishant Sharma was targetted by Sri Lankan fast bowler Dhammika Prasad, who continued to bowl bouncers at the Indian. When Ishant came out to bowl, he was breathing fire. Virat later said, "I was very happy with the incident when he was batting. It happened at the right time for us because we had to bowl yesterday and they made him angry. It couldn't have happened at a better time for us. And the timing was absolutely perfect and everything fell in place for us as far as being aggressive is concerned." (Forget Pacers, Now Spinners Will Win us Matches, Says Faf du Plessis)
There are about 4 to 5 core players who play all 3 formats. The ceiling on aggression under the two different captains is clearly different, but is it difficult for the players to change from one to the other? Where the line is and whether it's alright to cross it from time to time must be difficult questions to answer in such a scenario with split team captaincy.
The ultimate goal for both captains is to make India win matches. It will be interesting to see the players walk the aggression tightrope as they switch formats and captains.