Fruits of the season

Kohli is India’s best at the moment. His efforts tell us why India must persist with youth.

KohliA few months ago, Virat Kohli had failed in four straight innings in the Melbourne and Sydney Tests. We heard calls to axe him. We were told how the Indian youth was not ready to take over from the veterans. Young, reckless, arrogant — the list of characteristics ascribed to Kohli ran long. His rude gesture to fans in Sydney made it worse for him.

Imagine if he had been dropped from the Perth Test. Imagine the effect it would have had on his confidence which had been dented by those failures. If he had been dropped then, we probably wouldn’t have had the chance to see what we did — the gritty 75 in Perth, the 116 in Adelaide, and then his fearful slaying of Sri Lanka in Hobart and Pakistan in Mirpur.

The Adelaide innings wasn’t a mere hundred – it was a coming-of-age moment for Kohli. You only need to see the list of Indian Test centurions in Australia to know that Kohli has put himself in the company of India’s greatest. His slaughtering of Sri Lanka and Pakistan were bonus additions to his brilliant run of scores.

The reason one must dwell on these performances is that when it comes to making tough decisions in team selection, India have tended to be conservative. It would have been easy for the team management to fulfil the popular demand of dropping him and sticking to the out-of-form seniors — some of whom are clearly at the end of their playing days. Thankfully, Kohli was persevered with. He has delivered, and has shown he has the potential to finish as one of India’s finest.

We all want our cricketing legends to hang on a little longer, see this slump through, and give us some more glittering performances to remember them by. But sadly, this conservative mindset of hanging on to them would only impede young players like Kohli whose time has come.

We often forget that these legends too struggled on their path to greatness. Tendulkar scored ducks in his first two ODIs. Dravid flopped on his international debut in Singapore. Ganguly was considered the undeserving beneficiary of zonal selection politics. And Laxman had been a Test struggler till that fine afternoon at the Eden Gardens. Imagine if they had not got their breaks when it mattered.

The 2011-12 season was disastrous for India. They could only beat the lowly West Indies in Tests. In ODIs, their performances were unbecoming of world champions. As the new season kicks off with the IPL next month, one hopes the likes of Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary will get their dues. So what if they fail a few times? Who doesn’t?