Kohli Is A Quality Batsman, But Not A Leader Just Yet
Virat Kohli’s innings was so unbelievable that it hasn’t sunk in yet. 133 of the most quality runs you will see in ODI batting. He out-batted Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir in his knock and once again exemplified the value of playing yourself in. For his first 30 odd runs, he stroked the ball around, hit the odd bad ball away, and accumulated. Once he got his eye in, he unleashed a vast array of strokes (not least on Malinga). John Wright always said that if you give the first hour to the bowlers, the rest of the day is yours. While that applies more literally to test cricket, there’s no reason you can’t apply that to the ODI game (in a relative manner) of course. The best part about his batting is that he doesn’t attempt to thrash the ball, rather times the ball really well. I am gradually becoming a bigger fan of his batting, and what was most pleasing was his attitude when he reached his hundred. His elation was justified, but his smile was a positive step from his swear-word releasing antics that we have seen previously.
While India might still not reach the final, Kohli has been the best thing about India’s tour from my perspective. Yes, people talk about Umesh Yadav’s progress, but to be honest, although Yadav would have learned a great deal during this trip, he is still committing mistakes he made at the beginning of the tour (pitching too short, going for pace at times when he needs to focus on line and length, among others). Kohli, on the other hand, has for the most part improved with every block of games. He is now the only Indian to have scored a ODI and a test hundred in an international game this tour (no other Indian has made a hundred in 3 months in Australia).
The team that’s been picked for the Asia Cup raises a few questions. What I don’t like is the fact that fast bowlers who really don’t have a future in Indian Cricket have been picked again – Ashok Dinda and Vinay Kumar. Don’t really see them making an impact anywhere. Secondly, is Zaheer Khan really going to be fit enough to play the 2015 World Cup ? He’ll be 36 then and will have no realistic chance of being consistently fit for a 6 week tournament. Now, while I’m not saying that a 36 year old is not good enough to play ODI cricket, I do feel that a fast bowler who is struggling to maintain fitness when he’s in his early 30s has no business being in the team 3 years from then. We should be looking at the younger guys cementing their spots in the side – Aaron, Yadav, Irfan Pathan and so on, and so we must have a clear policy of whether we are going to pick Zaheer again for ODI cricket or just confine him to the test matches. The same goes for Sehwag – who by the way, has also been in the most uninspiring form of his life. Need I say more?
Thirdly, has Raina’s 40 not out really saved him again? He’s going to go to Dhaka, come in at 240/4, hit some big sixes and once again render the selectors blind to his inability to play the short and moving ball. Well done, Srikkanth, you really know how to pick a side. Just pick the same players again and again – and at some point they will come good! I wonder what the side might have been if it was picked before the win against Sri Lanka. I can guarantee you hands down the selectors would have made one or two more changes, but quite pathetically left the side pretty much the same. Jadeja is an interesting case – I am a big fan of his bowling in the subcontinent, but outside the subcontinent he is atrocious. He isn’t good enough to bat number 5, but not aggressive enough to bat 7. Yusuf Pathan is a more suitable number 7, but his bowling leaves a lot to be desired. Compare him to the Pakistani spinning all rounders – Hafeez and Afridi and you’ll notice a massive difference in skill. Yusuf just runs up and bowls tidily (which in the subcontinent for a fifth bowler means less than 7 runs an over). He has no capacity to take wickets aside from poor shots by batsmen attempting to hit him out of the attack. Afridi and Hafeez on the other hand have flight, variation, guile and bowl far more consistent line and lengths.
Final point – It seems as if Kohli’s selection as Vice-Captain for the Asia Cup is a token of appreciation from the selectors to him for improving his conduct during the tour and for being the best batsman of the tour for India. While I see some leadership potential in the guy, he cannot and should not be rewarded just yet, not least for his arrogance and failure to respect the game in several instances on this tour. He needs to learn a lesson first, show consistent signs of improvement, and then finally gain more experience in the test match arena before he can be a Vice-Captain.
Let’s hope Sri Lanka trip up on Friday – I know I’ll be spending Saturday night n that blue jersey then.