Team India faltering in ICC events in last 5 years a worrying sign for Captain Kohli
New Delhi: A maverick with the bat, Virat Kohli's heroics with the willow needs no introduction. But the same cannot be said about his tryst with the captaincy. Having taken over from one of the world's best captains in MS Dhoni, he always had tough boots to fill. But his failure to cross the final hurdle in world events has further made his struggle a talking point.
Kohli has so far led India in three ICC events -- the 2017 Champions Trophy, the 2019 50-over World Cup and the recently completed inaugural edition of the World Test Championship (WTC). In all these events, India managed to reach the closing stages, but the trophy eluded the team.
In June 2017, India had a near-to-perfect run in the Champions Trophy, and the Men in Blue were favourites to clinch the title. But what followed was a sorry state, as India lost the summit clash against arch-rival Pakistan in a one-sided affair.
Batting first, Pakistan posted 338/4 in the allotted fifty overs. Fakhar Zaman made India pay as he scored a ton after being given a reprieve. Jasprit Bumrah had Fakhar caught at the hands of the wicketkeeper Dhoni, only to realise that it was a no-ball. India lost the way pretty early in the chase and in the end, Pakistan was crowned champions.
It was the first ICC title under the leadership of Virat Kohli, so none gave too much thought into why the Men in Blue were unable to bring the trophy home after a solid show throughout the tournament. But two more chances have come and gone, and now it is only fair to ask if the senior team needs a different leader with Kohli being allowed to focus on his batting? Not to forget, it has been a while since he last scored a century in Test cricket -- November 2019. For someone known for his conversion rates, his last hundred in ODIs also came back in August 2019. In the 15 innings since, he has hit 8 fifties, but the three-figure mark hasn't been breached.
Coming to the next ICC event in 2019, India was outplayed by New Zealand in the 50-over World Cup semi-final clash in Manchester. And on Wednesday again, it was Kane Williamson's men who brushed aside the challenge of India in the WTC final even though close to around seven sessions were lost to rain and the Reserve Day came into play.
In both the 50-over semi-final clash and the WTC final, India's batting failed to leave a mark and Kohli, who has a reputation of being a big-match player, was unable to deliver. In the second innings of the WTC final, Kohli poked at one in the corridor of uncertainty and the Kiwi wicket-keeper made no mistake. The area has almost become a blind spot of sorts for one of the world's best batsman as he has time and again faltered in that zone.
Interestingly, India's biggest win in recent times came in Australia at the start of the year. What made the win more special was how a bunch of injury-ravaged cricketers outclassed Australia in their own backyard. But a deeper dissection brings to fore the fact that it was Ajinkya Rahane who led a young inexperienced team beautifully against a top-class Australian outfit.
Kohli's journey in the series had ended with the first Test itself when the Indians were bundled out for 36 in the second essay to lose the game by eight wickets at Adelaide Oval. Kohli headed home after the first game for the birth of his child. But Rahane managed to rejuvenate the bunch with coach Ravi Shastri and what ensued is stuff legends are made of.
Coming back to the WTC final in Southampton, in the pre-departure press conference, both Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri stressed how the WTC final should have had a 'best-of-three' finals to decide the winner. After the loss, Kohli further stressed on it and also spoke about showing intent and how there could be a few changes in the line-up going into the Tests against England.
But the question that once again comes to mind is whether a Dhoni or a Rahane would have gone in with the same XI that was named by the team on the eve of the game even though the opening day of the WTC final was washed off? Since the toss hadn't taken place, India had the chance to relook the Playing XI, but the team management didn't.
In the end, it looked like playing an extra batsman instead of two spinners could have helped India score another 20-30 runs. And one never knows the impact a target beyond 150 can have on a team batting last in a summit clash. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but in this case, the skipper did have a chance to relook the XI having seen the opening day's action being washed off and more rain predicted in the next few days. Was the fine line between confidence and over-confidence breached? After all, while India had two spinners in the XI, the Kiwis had none.
Moving on, another ICC event is coming up at the end of the year -- T20 World Cup -- and whether the team admits it or not, the boys would indeed be under pressure to win a major title, more so, Kohli the leader.
Being number one in rankings is a good talking point for some days, but in the end, everyone remembers a captain for the number of trophies he has in the cabinet. And time is definitely running out for Captain Kohli. (ANI)