India’s inability to capitalise on England’s vulnerable top order and their own batting failures is now history, with a scoreline of 4-1 that will haunt Virat Kohli for a long time, given the pride he takes in his team’s performance. For reasons not hard to explain, the focus has now shifted from Kohli, the run-machine, to Kohli the captain.
Failure has its own price to pay and if the captain and his coach continue to live and speak the language of a runaway winner, then they are bound to face a barrage of uncomfortable questions from disappointed fans and a large number of cricketing experts. No one questioned coach Ravi Shastri’s claim before the series that this lot has the potential to be the best ever Indian team.
The fans were willing to believe, even after failure in South Africa, that their team is potentially a rich side and can thrash England in their own backyard to stake a legitimate claim to being among the best. This assertion, after the conclusion of the series, is now a mere boast that should by now have embarrassed the proud owner of these words. But no, it appears the team still believes that they are the best ever in the last 15 years. The skipper even ticked off a journalist who merely wanted Kohli’s opinion on whether he still believes in what his coach had said.
Are these answers, that mock the person asking a genuine question, a sign of arrogance or the response of an immature mind getting carried away by his own personal achievements, and inexhaustible self-belief ? Kohli, if proof was needed, did show the world that his batting prowess is as special as anyone in the past or present may have possessed. But even this expression of greatness displayed against one of the greatest fast bowlers in the world — Jimmy Anderson — did not help India overcome its weaknesses. For a man whose very mobile face displays all the myriad emotions of someone impatient with any resistance coming his way, this collective failure must be galling.
It is good that he still retains faith in his team, but that faith would have a greater meaning if it acknowledged its weaknesses as well. And, if a team loses four of the five matches, the shortcomings have to be many. They need evaluation, a realistic self-appraisal and not childish responses that can create unnecessary divisions, within and outside.
There are many valid questions being raised that point at the failure of leadership. From team selection to strategic moves on the field, there are a host of issues to be assessed so that they are not repeated in similar situations. It would be unwise for Kohli to get so deluded by his own batting strength that he starts believing he can take no wrong decision as a captain. Captaincy is a difficult art that requires, among many other things, understanding of the men you lead and providing them the right environment to flourish. This is easier said than done.
The greatest danger to a person’s growth is to believe his privileges are the result of his inherent wisdom. Captaincy is a learning curve and being aware of one’s shortcomings, even hunting for them, can help in the curve going upwards. Kohli has by sheer hard work overcome many shortcomings as a batsman to become the phenomenon that he is. As a captain he has a world to conquer and a bit of humility and self-assessment can help. And may be he requires a coach, who in the best interest of the team, tells him not what he wants to hear but what he needs to listen.