Among all captains in Test history with at least 25 matches at the helm, Virat Kohli’s win-loss ratio of 5.33 is comfortably the best. As evidenced by his captaincy record of 16 victories and three defeats, he is rapidly evolving into an efficient leader.
However, a majority of those games have come on home soil and tougher tests await. With gruelling tours outside the subcontinent beginning later this year, all eyes will be on Kohli’s captaincy and how he can galvanise the world’s top-ranked team outside their comfort zone.
Even though his leadership skills are progressing in the right direction, there are still quite a few aspects that he has to improve upon to meet sterner challenges.
Here are five areas Kohli needs to fine-tune in order to become one of the most impactful captains of the modern era.
#5 Solve the second new-ball conundrum
More often than not, the second new-ball grants succour to tired bowlers and demoralised captains. However, at times, it can work against the team’s favour as the runs begin to flow from either well-set or dangerous batsmen.
Having had to think on his feet, Kohli has often alternated between both worlds. While he has looked to delay taking the second new-ball in quite a few matches, the 28-year-old has also got sucked into taking the option when he did not need to.
During the first Test against Australia in Pune, he opted for a harder ball despite the fact that the number eleven batsman was at the crease. Consequently, Mitchell Starc wrested back the momentum with a manic half-century. A more prudent approach could have yielded better results.
#4 Retain close-in fielders even if batsmen attack
During the 2015 series against South Africa which was Kohli’s first on home soil, under-prepared pitches affected the output of the Indian batsmen. However, in the recently completed 2016/17 home season, they have piled on mammoth totals on a frequent basis.
Although he had the luxury of constantly attacking the opposition by surrounding their batsmen with close-in fielders, Kohli preferred to spread the field when his bowlers came in the firing line.
Admittedly, some of the pitches in this season have tested the bowling unit’s will. But, in all likelihood, such surfaces will greet them during their next round of overseas tours. Even a hint of cautiousness could hamper India’s chances of regularly picking up 20 wickets away from Asia.
#3 Utilise part-timers to break partnerships
Unlike teams of the past, modern-day sides have been quite reluctant to bring in part-timers when massive partnerships reach their tipping points. In unfamiliar terrain, inspired bowling changes become necessary to halt the charge of confident home batting lineups.
Even though his thought-process to build pressure by persisting with his specialist bowlers is valid, the counter-argument questions Kohli’s qualms to not even offer a few overs here and there to his part-timers during prolonged wicket-less periods.
It is imperative to build the confidence of decent options like Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma and Karun Nair by giving them the chance to try and break blossoming partnerships. When India travel abroad, keeping a few part-timers up their sleeves might not be such a bad idea.
#2 Avoid chasing the ball
Among the biggest blunders that a captain could commit is setting the field according to the previous delivery. During the 5-match series against England, Kohli brought in gully or forward short leg only after a chance went begging.
His propensity to follow the ball also extended to boundary saving positions. When the batsman pierced one gap and found the boundary, he immediately changed the field to prevent a repeat.
However, the cycle continued when another gap was penetrated. Instead of reiterating faith in his and the bowler’s original plan, Kohli seemed to be chasing the ball. A bit more patience could help build pressure on oppositions.
#1 Prevent verbal confrontations on and off the field
While getting under the skin of the opposition may be an integral part of the overall package that is Kohli’s captaincy, regular confrontations with opposition players can eventually have a detrimental effect on his own team-mates.
Like with any other team, the Indian side comprises various types of characters who tend to show intent and aggression in different ways. When the skipper involves himself in verbal skirmishes, the rest of the players also get entangled in the quagmire one way or the other.
As is often said, what happens on the field stays on it. In that regard, in the recently-concluded series against Australia, Kohli could have accepted Steven Smith’s large-hearted apology and put an end to the slew of controversies.