Once again Virat Kohli is at the helm of Team India. Once again he will be under the 'captaincy' pressure. And once again it will be a test for India's first-in-line to throne to sustain his recently-gained form against the West Indies after a long lean slump.
India decided to rest Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the first three ODIs vs Sri Lanka and named Kohli as captain - an exercise BCCI has been following whenever Dhoni is given a break or breaks down.
Kohli, who has rightly been touted as the future India skipper, last led India in Zimbabwe, taking the world champions to emphatic 5-0 whitewash in the ODI series. And now when Dhoni has been allowed to put his feet up again for the hastily arranged five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka keeping in mind the upcoming tour of Australia and the World Cup that follows immediately, Kohli is back at the helm.
While the Delhi dasher has been a natural and unanimous choice for the captain's post in Dhoni's absence, it can also pile on the pressure on Kohli the batsman, who has just regained his lost touch after a string of poor performances.
Kohli looked in shambles each time he stepped out to face England bowlers - be it in the five Tests or the ODIs. With scores of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0,7, 6 and 20 in the five Tests, he averaged 13.50 in his ten innings. The ODIs too showed a rather similar picture as he managed to put up scores of 0, 40, 1* and 13.
The Delhi batsman, who has been in the news about his alleged relationship with Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma, has been criticised by some for losing focus; however, he hit back hard with a half-century followed by his 20th ODI century against the West Indies.
Kohli's former teammate Yuvraj Singh also believes he is more aggressive when he is the captain. "A year back, Virat was all over the news for his cricket success, the same critics were praising him that time. I do not think much about it [wives and girlfiends]. A player knows what he is doing and he would always keep his form and game a priority," Yuvraj, who runs a cancer foundation called YouWeCan, had said at the Idea Exchange evvent.
"I see great potential in Kohli. He is an angry young man. He is more aggressive when he is the captain and the team is losing. He is outstanding when it comes to work ethic and focus," Yuvraj added.
As India prepare to defend the World Cup next year in Australia and New Zealand, the inarguable need of the hour is Kohli the batsman, not Kohli the second in command.
Former India captain and one of India's most successful captains Sourav Ganguly is also of the opinion that Kohli should focus more on his batting rather than captaincy. "All of us get caught up with captaincy - need to get the team right, team meetings, need to set this right and set that right, etc. Somehow subconsciously we get so much caught up with captaincy that our own game takes a backseat. Therefore, my good advice to Virat would be to concentrate on scoring runs and think about captaincy only when he leads the side onto the field," Dada said some time back.
Kohli has a tremendous record against Sri Lanka - 1,527 runs in 35 ODIs at an average of 52.65 runs with five centuries - and he should grab the opportunity to get some essential runs under his belt before the World Cup 2015. For someone who loves challenges being thrown at him, the Sri Lanka series should rather be a path for Kohli to sustain the form he regained against the West Indies.
It would be interesting to see whether leading Team India against a strong team like Sri Lanka gives Kohli much more confidence ahead of the World Cup or it adds to his already burdened shoulders.