Former England captain Mike Brearley was left disappointed with Indian skipper Virat Kohli’s captaincy in the fifth and final Test against England at The Oval. India suffered a 4-1 loss in the Test series, with the final game in London lost by 114 runs – a margin which could have been much larger if it weren’t for the three-figure heroics of KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant on the final day.
“I was slightly disappointed with his captaincy at The Oval, when England started to get on top,” Brearley said in an interview with Daily Mail. “He let things drift a bit, whereas when the match was evenly fought, or they were in with a chance, or had the new ball against Root, he was keen-eyed, hawk-eyed, articulate, non-stop.
“I admire him probably as much as any cricketer I've seen. But there is a risk: everyone's strengths can become faults and in his case his articulacy, his charisma, his presence, his skill, his fierce thoughtfulness could become tyrannical, a bit autocratic.
“He needs people around him who will tackle him, take him on, challenge him, otherwise he'll get opinionated and dogmatic, and then powerful — sometimes for good, sometimes not. I can imagine he might be difficult to play for. He'd be very impatient of carelessness or laziness or lack of intensity. And some people aren't of that mentality."
Brearley also suggested that sending England all-rounder Ben Stokes up the batting order is a viable option, considering that the southpaw has a good defence.
"I thought of Stokes because he's got a good classical defence. Now the only trouble is — it's a bit like Botham — you don't know if batting up the order is going to inhibit him. Should he remain at 5 or 6 or 7? I just don't know the answer.
"I even thought he might open the batting in Sri Lanka and the West Indies, especially if he's going to be fourth seamer and bowl in bursts now and then to intimidate and stir them up."
The former England captain also reckoned that Stokes and Jos Buttler have the potential to be become better batsmen than Botham. As far as wicketkeepers are concerned, he rated Jonny Bairstow higher than Buttler, but only just.
Speaking about the current England captain, Brearley said Root is a fantastic batsman but his conversion rate is a cause for concern. “Root is a terrific batsman. He hasn't quite come off in the last year and I don't know why it is that he keeps getting out between 50 and 100. It's not for want of trying. Perhaps he starts trying too hard. Virat Kohli's conversion rate from 50s to 100s is something like 59 or 60 per cent (it's 54), Root's is something like 25. It's quite an interesting contrast — these are two of the best four or five players in the world.”
The 76-year-old is also not a fan of ECB's 100-ball tournament, though he can "see why they think they need something distinctive". He also opined that the dominance of home sides is not good for the future of Test cricket, especially outside England. Eliminating the toss from the equation could be one solution. “You either give the toss to the opposition, or you have a toss as to whether there should be a toss.”
“Home teams would be nervous about fixing the pitches,” he said. He would also like the Duke's ball being standardised to bring the bowlers into the game.
"I don't like the Kookaburra,' he said. "I just don't think they're good for cricket. They only stay hard for 10 or 15 overs, and they don't swing in the ordinary way. Then you get a war of attrition — people bowling short and fast."