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Tough to step into captain's shoes

Hrishikesh Kanitkar | | Updated: October 7, 2015, 4:41 PM IST

Just when the Indian team was getting nice and comfortable with the World Cup and the Champions Trophy winners tag, there comes about a twist in the tale. MS Dhoni suffers a hamstring injury and India suffers a one wicket defeat against West Indies on Sunday. Though that doesn't mean that India would have won if Dhoni had continued to lead in the second innings of the match, it sure is a tough preposition for the stand in captain.

When a captain like MS Dhoni is at the helm, a figure who the players depend on for all the major decisions, and who invariably chooses to make the right move at the right time, its a definite loss when suddenly you find the captain of the ship unwell to do his duties. A void is created which needs to be filled quickly and its very tough because the player doing that is not used to doing it at the international level.

Dhoni's injury meant that Virat Kohli had to step in as captain for the rest of the game. This can never be easy because as a player one always tends to think in a different way. As a player one is more focused on ones one role in the game. Whereas the captain always thinks in terms of the team, the big picture. Being responsible for the team, the captains priority is always to think of how to win the game. Till the time it was confirmed that Dhoni wouldn't be participating in the rest of the game, Virat Kohli must have been focused on how he would contribute as fielder and motivator when India fielded. Instead, he was suddenly leading the side with the team looking up to him for directions. In a limited overs game, this can be very disconcerting. Though India lost that game against the West Indies on Sunday they came very close to pulling off a victory. Thats a good sign in the long run.

Kohli's first game as skipper of Team India wasn't a very memorable one either. A superlative Sri Lankan performance and an average Indian one coincided with Kohli's captaincy debut. That would be a fair way to sum it up. Because of the way the Indian team is playing at the moment, its easy to get carried away and expect them to win everything. But the fact remains that like any other team or individual sportsman, a bad day is imminent. Against Sri Lanka, India didn't look as sharp. They were lackluster. And all this is normal. In golf its very uncommon for a player to win a major and follow it up by winning another event the very next week. Same holds true in cricket. For a country that has just experienced the high of winning the Champions Trophy just a few days back, its tough to refocus so quickly and give their best again. One must also consider the physical and mental toll a player suffers through playing continuously. After the Champions Trophy they have hardly had any time to unwind and rest. If India is suffering a hangover, its understandable.

Kohli as the man in charge will be very keen to set the record straight as far as his captaincy is concerned. He has had considerable experience leading his side Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. His team respect him for the batsman he is. And the fact that he is highly motivated is obvious looking at his energy in the field. What he needs to do now is be bold and to trust his instincts completely. Virat Kohli trusts his instincts completely while batting and now its time for him to show his trust in them as captain.

For the Indian team selectors, the BCCI, and the team think tank its absolutely essential that they instill in each player the habit to think like a captain. If every player is using his mind to think like a leader he tends to be extra focused and aware of whats happening in the match. This is when we find players doing the right things at the right time. A player thus focused and aware of the situation also makes the captains job easier.

While there is a lot being written about how Kohli lacked the qualities possessed by MS Dhoni, like the ability to think out of the box and to take unorthodox decisions, in his defense, its very tough in your very first match as captain of your nations cricket team to be unorthodox and to think out of the box straight away. These very attributes that Dhoni displays only come about with experience. And experience isn't gained without facing tough situations. Kohli will have to be a quick learner and will have to dig deep within to feel the confidence. It will take Virat some time to find that comfort zone which confidence brings and when he does, we will be better able to judge how good a captain he makes.
First Published: July 5, 2013, 11:06 PM IST

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