Virat Kohli is a man who rarely hides behind silences to avoid tricky questions. Indian captains in the past have rarely been as articulate as he is and even when they have had the vocabulary, they have avoided raising issues that need attention of the authorities. This transformation has been a pleasant development as when he burst on the international scene, he was brash, short tempered and too emotional for anyone to visualize that he could be a responsible captain.
His batting too reflected his personality, where he wanted to stamp his authority on the bowlers, unmindful of the conditions or the match situation. Failures and criticism may have helped him introspect and make changes in his attitude towards life and his batting.
Today, he still likes to express himself, though always mindful of match situations and does not let his natural aggressive instincts get the better of him. He is expansive without being profligate, attacking the bowlers within the boundaries drawn by the demands of his team. This makes him a perfect team man, who puts the interest of the team above his personal goals and ambitions.
Off it, he has become more measured than careless with his words, unlike the image he had developed of being boorish, letting expletives fly at the slightest provocation. Responsibility has made him more mature and instead of getting bogged down or getting rougher at the edges, he is developing into a person who knows not only when to speak, but more importantly, what to speak.
He has drawn flak for not getting along with his former coach Anil Kumble and being responsible for his ouster. Whatever the merits and demerits of that ugly, badly handled episode may be, there is little doubt that his relationship with Ravi Shastri is showing all signs of developing into a very meaningful one for the good of Indian cricket.
Since the two are on the same page, they have been able to chalk out a selection policy which, by placing emphasis on rotating its bowlers, will help in keeping them fresh for future battles. When, on the eve of the second Test against Sri Lanka in Nagpur, Kohli raised the question of not having time for preparation for the series in South Africa, he was articulating a genuine concern all Indian fans have. In an itinerary crammed with matches, a lot of them without any thought given to the needs of the team or the interest of the fans, the long term interest of the team is being ignored.
One can’t expect better from a Board, which is being dictated by the needs of the broadcasters, who want more and more matches to be played in India to get compensated for the millions they shell out to bag televising rights. In the past too players have complained but mostly in private, not daring to open their mouth in public for fear of annoying the establishment.
Kohli, unlike his predecessors, has dared to take on the authorities and is repeatedly expressing his annoyance at the thoughtless, unimaginative manner in which tour schedules are drawn, placing inhuman burden on the players.
It is obvious that this Indian team believes that they have the players and the confidence to continue doing overseas what they have been doing so consistently at home: winning.
That is the reason that they tried to recreate a seaming, swinging, bouncy track at the Eden Garden’s against Sri Lanka so that they could use the present series as preparation for the South African tour. I am not sure whether this would help, but it sure shows the new purposeful intent of the Kohli-Shastri combine. In future, the Board should rope in the two whenever they plan future itineraries so that the long term interest of the Indian team doesn’t always get compromised at the altar of power politics and greed.