‘Should Virat Kohli step down as India’s Test captain?’ This was the top trending question on social media and various online media platforms after Ajinkya Rahane led India to a phenomenal win in the Melbourne Test. Is it justified to have a go at captain Kohli, who has won 14 Test series out of the 18 he has captained in for the country? Isn’t it good for India that the team has two brilliant minds who can complement each other?
Rahane has shown in his short captaincy career at the international level that he is an astute leader and an instinctive captain. He exhibited those qualities in Dharamshala in 2017, when India defeated Australia in the final Test with the series on the line, and again during the Melbourne Test.
TOI POLL: Is Rahane a better captain than Kohli?
Both Kohli and Rahane have demonstrated they are shrewd leaders. It is not for nothing India won the 2018-19 Test series in Australia under Kohli’s leadership.
Their approach towards captaincy, on-field decision making and demeanour is totally different. While Kohli wears his heart on his sleeve, Rahane is unflappable. Kohli brings aggression and an in-your-face attitude on the field while Rahane is phlegmatic. Kohli’s intensity is quite apparent. Rahane is quietly determined.
“See, both are good readers of the game. Virat is very passionate, Ajinkya, on the other hand, is very calm and composed. Virat is more in your face, while Ajinkya is quite prepared to sit back in a very calm and composed manner, but deep inside he knows what he wants,” said coach Ravi Shastri about the two leaders.
Batting legend Sunil Gavaskar’s opinion is no different. “Virat is a lot more passionate and in your face. Rahane is calm and composed. He lacks aggression in his body language but not in his tactics. He is quite aggressive with his tactics as captain. We saw that (aggression in field placings) with the leg-gully, slip and forward short leg,” he said.
There are some major differences in tactical approach too. Kohli is someone who wants to pepper the opposition with pace. His aggressive nature has made him rely more on the fast bowlers in order to take the 20 wickets required to win a Test match.
Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli in Melbourne in 2018. (Getty Images)
Rahane, on the other hand, is more intuitive and approaches a match with an open mind. Case in point: Rahane introducing R Ashwin on Day 1 of the Melbourne Test in the 11th over itself. There was moisture on the surface and Rahane’s decision turned out to be a tactical masterstroke as Ashwin sent back Matthew Wade and Steve Smith in his first spell. Outside the subcontinent, Kohli rarely goes to his spinner so early; that too on the first day of a Test match.
Another noticeable difference between the two is that Rahane loves to give his bowlers longish spells, as was evident in Melbourne. Jasprit Bumrah started off with a six-over opening spell on Day 1, Umesh bowled seven. And in one of his spells, Ashwin delivered 12 overs on the trot. Kohli, in contrast, resorts to shorter spells for his bowlers. Sometimes one or two overs when wickets aren’t falling.
The team huddles are also different. When Kohli is the captain, it is mostly him who does all the talking and motivates the team. Under Rahane, there were a lot more voices. While Rahane spoke from time to time, Ashwin and Pujara were also seen addressing the team.
One thing that stood out was Rahane’s calmness on the field. When Tim Paine survived a clear run out due to the third umpire’s largesse or when the reviews didn’t go in favour of India because of the ‘umpire’s call’ clause in DRS, Rahane remained level-headed and didn’t allow the team to get affected. Kohli, contrastingly, is an emotional and excitable personality.
“Jinks’ (Rahane) calmness really provided us that stability to express ourselves,” Ashwin said later.
“His calm composure helped the debutants as well as the bowlers. There was a calming influence out there in spite of losing Umesh (Yadav),” added Shastri.