Ravi Shastri, whose tenure as India’s head coach ended after the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in November last year, has said that Virat Kohli was a fantastic captain and not all captains have won a world cup. Shastri, who was part of the 1983 world cup winning squad, said it took six world cups for the great Sachin Tendulkar to lay his hands on that trophy. He is on the money.
South Africa’s Graeme Smith, the most successful captain in Test history, has not won any ICC championship.
Simply put, what Shastri said, it was okay for captain Kohli to not win any ICC title since he did incredibly well at home and overseas tours. Yes, Kohli is fourth behind Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh in registering most Test wins. Under Kohli, India bagged the ICC top ranking in Tests and ODIs; reached the final of the inaugural World Test Championship last year.
Captain Kohli is world famous for his intensity, boundless energy and aggression on the field and his own phenomenal record as a devastating white-ball batter puts him in a league of his own. Inarguably, he’s one of the all-time greats.
But is Shastri right in downplaying Kohli’s failure in leading India to an ICC trophy? Not really.
For millions of cricket crazy Indians, who revere cricketers, the World Cup is an ultimate prize. Bilateral victories are all very well. But fans want to see their heroes win big trophies.
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One wonders if Indian cricket would have been the same had Kapil Dev not scored that incredible, captain’s knock of 175 when his team was tottering at 17/5 against Zimbabwe and eventually lead India to their maiden World Cup title by beating the mighty West Indies in a David vs Goliath contest in 1983. The 1983 World Cup victory fired up an entire generation and took cricket to every nook and corner of the country which was till then an expensive sport played by urban elites.
MS Dhoni was not known for his energy like Kohli and was rather called ‘Captain Cool’ for his ability to absorb intense pressure. He won all three big ICC trophies, the first T20I World Cup in 2008, ODI World Cup in 2011 and the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013.
Big victories create big moments and everlasting memories. In the long run, bilateral victories and individual records are consigned to record books for future Google searches and comparisons. How many knew Kohli had won 40 Tests when he quit captaincy, making him the most successful Indian Test captain ever? Contrast this with Kapil or Dhoni’s Test records – both don’t have great Test records. Yet, old timers still rave about Kapil’s 175 not out and Dhoni’s sixer that won India their second World Cup in 2011.
Even Shastri’s superlative all-round performance in Benson and Hedges World Championship in 1985 which India won under Sunil Gavaskar’s captaincy and won Shastri a swanky Audi, which he drove with all his teammates sitting atop, is still etched in people’s mind. Shashtri became an overnight superstar.
No wonder why it was Tendulkar’s ultimate dream to win the World Cup for India and who can forget those images of a young Kohli carrying Tendulkar on his shoulders after India won the 2011 ODI World Cup and what he had said that day. “Tendulkar had carried the burden of the nation for 21 years; it was time we carried him.”
Sports at the highest level is ruthless and it’s not just about winning bilateral series. It’s about winning the top prize. That’s what Ponting, Waugh, Imran Khan, Kapil, Dhoni, Eoin Morgan and Kane Williamson did for their respective teams and that’s where Kohli failed. If captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill as the late Richie Benaud said then luck failed the great Kohli. Sadly, in sports there is no consolation prize.