Of late, Virat Kohli has been celebrating milestones with the repose of a mystique, something unthinkable in his insolent younger days, wherein each hundred or a catch was a party to flaunt his look-at-me machismo-- all high fives, air punches and expletives. It was as though he was making a bravado statement against a world that forever seemed to conspire against him. The hundred against the West Indies was so breathtakingly irresistible that he could but spark the brash spirit of his youth.
The hundred was special, made even more special by that this was his first as the Indian captain. Though a makeshift job--until Mahendra Singh Dhoni returns and re-assumes the task--Kohli is almost ordained to lead India in future, near or distant. The last few months as the vice-captain was an apprenticeship for him, though he was slightly caught by the moment when tasked to lead out the team for the first time, in Kingston against Sri Lanka.
But in Port of Spain, he made all the right moves. He bought back Bhuvneshwar Kumar to the side. He resisted the temptation to promote Murali Vijay, an opener by trade, up the order. He scampered all around the park, setting field, pep-talking with his bowlers, diving to save runs and setting fields the circumstance demanded. It seemed a two-day makeover for Kohli, who in Sabina Park seemed a desolate man, saddled with responsibilities. In POS, there was his usual joie di vevre.
Like most good captains, he volunteered the extra responsibility, manufacturing a hundred that was a treatise on batting in limited overs. And he confided that the extra responsibility as a skipper made him re-think his approach to batting. "I sat and analysed what I was doing in the past few games. I was being too aggressive early on, and that’s not really my game. I decided to go out there and give myself a chance, play myself in. I liked the extra responsibility and the challenge captaincy brings," he said.
Never a more calculative innings has he constructed. Normally, his batting has a uniformly frenetic tempo about it, whereas in POS, it was a steady, insidious tenor, which reached a deafening crescendo to the end. "We kept losing wickets at the end. So I just had to knock it around for a while. When Ashwin came in, I told him that we should just bat till the end of 50 overs. We had seven-eight overs to bat still, and if we aimed at 270, we might get 15-20 more. It was all about timing your plans as to when to knock it around and when to go for big shots. It is very important to keep looking at the scoreboard in a one-day game. You have to analyse which bowler you can take a risk against and the chances of succeeding. It is a calculation you have to keep doing in the middle," he explained.
That calculative streak goes for his man-management, too. For he wisely reverted himself to number three, his most comfortable batting position. "I thought this helps me exercise more control over the innings. So I reasoned it out with the team management, though it was harsh on (Murali) Vijay, who has been out of the team for a while to come and bat down the order," he said.
Though two matches aren't good enough to judge someone's captaincy nous, there is something so impressionable about his captaincy. This series, though be just a prelude to what seems like a gripping narrative of captain Virat.