This positive attitude has been infectious, and Kohli’s unmistakably aggressive tenor finds resonance in all the other team members.
Cliched as it is, the only apt adjective to describe Virat Kohli;s current batting is ‘Bradmanesque’. His double century against Bangladesh was his fourth in as many series, and all within eight months.
Of course, comparing any batsman with Bradman can only be allegorical, not literal. While Kohli has scored four double tons in four rubbers, Bradman had six in three: in an era of uncovered pitches and no helmets!
Bradman’s pertinence as a metaphor is in understanding form, mastery over bowlers, ease of playing strokes, and propensity to make tall scores consistently. Watching Kohli from somewhere in the Elysian fields, the Don would doff his hat.
Every now and then, however, skeptics raise doubts whether Kohli can bat in the same vein overseas, the argument being that scoring runs at home is easy. I find this churlish and unfair.
First, he can only be judged on current performance. If India have played the bulk of their recent at home, it is hardly Kohli’s fault.
Morever, no other batsman has shown quite the same run-getting ability in the same conditions, which says something about Kohli’s class.
Not that his batting overseas hasn’t been impressive: in South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, not to forget a ‘monster’ series in Australia where Kohli scored almost 700 runs in just four Tests, he’s been in the vanguard.
The only failure was in England in 2014. But that can’t be a constant frame of reference.
Kohli has since made dramatic strides towards greatness. True, he will have to prove himself in England, but there is no reason to believe why he can’t.
There is more than just runs that Kohli brings to Indian cricket. His desire to excel and succeed — at a personal as well as collective level — is palpable. Whether playing New Zealand, England or Bangladesh, no quarter has been given.
This positive attitude has been infectious, and Kohli’s unmistakably aggressive tenor finds resonance in all the other team members. Since the captain is unsparing of effort himself, it means every player has to play to potential too.
There is little scope for laggards and shirkers. Within the squad this obviously also means intense contest for places, and a judicious, well thought-out selection process in picking the playing eleven.
Last week I wrote how the logic to restore Wridhiman Saha his wicket-keeper’s slot ahead of Parthiv Patel was based on sound cricket logic. Similarly Ajinkya Rahane, who was returning from injury, was chosen ahead of Karun Nair against Bangladesh.
This was perhaps the more difficult decision to make as Nair had scored a triple century in his last Test innings! I can’t think of another such instance in Test history except when the triple centurion has been injured or retired.
What could have been an excruciating choice to make became rather matter-of-fact as Kohli (and coach Anil Kumble) made it clear that Rahane’s solid performances over the previous two years couldn’t be obscured.
As it happened, on their comebacks, Rahane scored a fine 82 and Saha a quite scintillating, unbeaten 106. Both were under obvious pressure given the form shown by Nair and Patel, but came through with flying colours.
What was particularly heartening about their batting was that both Rahane and Saha played as if they had not had a break.
There was no dour intent to grind out a score that would ensure selection for the next match.
That shows an appreciation of the loyalty shown by the team management, as well as awareness of the fact that India’s bench strength currently means instant interchangeability is possible. This helps keep all players on their toes.
But it needs a healthy culture, based on fairness rather than whim, for such an approach to yield optimum results. Any discordancy would lead to mutual distrust and affect the equilibrium of the dressing room, whatever the talent.
This is where Kohli (and Kumble) have made a winning impact.