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Kumble Won't Defang Kohli's Aggression

Kohli bristles with natural aggression, which is fine, and this aggression gets the best out of him, which is even better.

Ayaz Memon |July 6, 2016, 2:06 PM IST
Kumble Won't Defang Kohli's Aggression

The Indian team has left for the West Indies with Anil Kumble, the new coach, and Virat Kohli, not a new captain but still very young and in charge for just 15 months.

I think this is a big challenge for both, and let me spell it out why:

West Indies are not top of the pops as far as Test cricket is concerned. In fact, they have been pretty much languishing at the bottom. India are pretty much at the top in the sense that they are No. 2 (in ICC Test rankings).

In a sense, it looks like a mismatch; but how crucial is this series for Indian cricket at this point in time! Kohli needs to sustain his winning form, and Kumble has to provide an immediate rebuff to skeptics.

A lot of people believe the change in coach is significant and we must work on that premise also, because Kumble is the kind of guy who you just don't appoint: you expect something special. Meeting this expectation is going to be the challenge for him.

Kumble mentioned before leaving for the West Indies that he doesn't want to curtail Kohli's aggression, which I think is a smart thing to do. Why would you want to defang your captain from his best attribute? This doesn't mean he has license to go overboard. But Kohli bristles with natural aggression, which is fine, and this aggression gets the best out of him, which is even better.

What Kohli said before the team's departure is also interesting: that the best way for the coach and captain to function is when there's an emotional connect between the two. This is a very significant statement. I believe the power to the team flows through the captain. If the captain is secure and feels in charge and is authoritative, it works better in getting the best out of the players.

So the emotional connect, one presumes Kohli had with Ravi Shastri, is something that both he and Kumble should strike up very early. There is no reason to believe both are not on the same page on this issue.

Kumble, with a meager one-year term (unfair in my opinion), is a little under pressure because he has to start delivering almost immediately. The four Tests in the West Indies is the only overseas tour in that one-year period, which is good. This will test the Indian team and give him some key clues about players.

West Indies, as I mentioned earlier, are not the most powerful of sides in contemporary cricket. Some of their marquee names like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell are not part of the five-day set-up, which is a setback.

But winning against them is no cakewalk. The Indian players have to acclimatize immediately. They are there for about 72 days, four Tests being played almost back to back, so there is no buffer for out-of-form players.

The batting is likely to settle in quicker than bowling. That's where the challenge is going to be and that's where Kumble will play a big role.

Of the bowlers, Mohammed Shami is back, which is a boon. A lot is expected from him given his potential. So too from Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Spin is still India's strength in many ways and the spinners haven't really been in the best form, barring the home series against South Africa, and the series before that against a struggling Sri Lanka.

How the team fares outside the sub-continent could perhaps give us some idea where it is headed over the next few years.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5046 120
2 New Zealand 3241 112
3 South Africa 3177 102
4 England 4593 102
5 Australia 3672 102
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7364 121
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 10071 258
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