190831 Virat Kohli
India skipper Virat Kohli Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: A 2-0 sweep against the West Indies means Virat Kohli has now surpassed Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s record as India’s most successful Test captain. The margin with which he beat his predecessor is impressive as he has recorded 28 victories in 48 matches while Dhoni recorded 27 wins in 60 Test matches.

The question that still begs to be asked is: how good is Kohli as a captain despite this impressive record?

It is generally accepted that Dhoni is a better captain than Kohli. It is a public knowledge that Kohli depends heavily on Dhoni even now in limited-overs cricket where one has to take quick decisions.

When Kohli stepped into Dhoni’s shoes as captain, he knew that he had to go a long way and has proved to be a fast learner. Though Kohli hasn’t played under Sourav Ganguly, he has picked up some of his traits, especially Ganguly’s aggression.

Ganguly recently put things into perspective: “He is a tremendous captain and is getting better and better. He was heavily criticised in the IPL, but even then I had said that I believe he is a good captain. He captained well in the World Cup. It’s unfortunate that India lost in the semi-final but I think he has progressed a lot as a captain.”

Surely, Kohli is progressing as a captain with every match. The willingness to improve is a quality that Kohli has in him and that has pushed him to great heights. An indication of his maturity was evident in the final Test at Kingstown Jamaica was the way he made a judicious use of the Decision Review System (DRS), which helped Jasprit Bumrah reach his hat-trick. Kohli also impressed everyone with the way he has rotated his bowlers and the attacking intent he has shown in his field placements.

It’s not easy to focus on the whole team to deliver at their best and still do justice to one’s reputation as the No. 1 batsman in the team — but Kohli has come out in flying colours. He was the first batsman to reach 20,000 international runs in a decade and much to his credit, has not let captaincy affect his batting form.

A minus point in his personality had been if things did not go his way, Kohli often lost his temper and that in turn affected his decision-making. Head coach Ravi Shastri has played a role here though — he has been able to direct Kohli and even alter his behaviour, both on and off the field, to a great extent.

Great batsmen have rarely been good captains because they expect others in the team too to match up to their level. When that doesn’t happen, their impatience leads to losing control over the team. However, captaincy is all about handling ups and downs in a game with calmness and that is a trait Kohli will have to master to remain the best. Fortunately for him, he now has a team that can deliver.

It is five years since Kohli took over as the permanent Test captain from Dhoni, soon after the Melbourne Test in December 2014. Now 30, Kohli has lots of cricket left in him and he is on the path to end up as the highest run-getter and could well race past South Africa’s Graeme Smith (53 Test wins) and Ricky Ponting (48) to become the world’s most successful captain.