Over the past year that Virat Kohli has taken over the captaincy of India, his side have played plenty bilateral ODI series and have won each of them – against Sri Lanka, England and Australia at home and away at West Indies and South Africa. Kohli’s captaincy record in ODI’s, stretching back to 2013 when he took over the reins for a series or two when MS Dhoni was rested, stands at – Played 50, Won 38, Lost 10. That amounts up to a mindboggling 77% win ratio. India also reached a Champions Trophy final in England during that period. In short, Kohli’s captaincy record has been near flawless and this Indian team’s performances have been quite spectacular under him.
So, what has changed under Kohli? This is not to suggest that Dhoni’s side weren’t performing well during the end of his reign, but they certainly weren’t as dominant as this current Indian side is. India’s top three has remained the same as it was under Dhoni. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli constitute arguably the best top three in limited overs cricket, at the moment. All of them are match winners and have been very consistent for a long period of time, now.
The problematic position has been the no.4 spot where the likes of KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey have been all tried there but none of them have staked a strong claim towards making that position their own. Currently, Rahane has been given the opportunity but has been inconsistent on the current tour of South Africa. KL Rahul is more suited to play at the top of the order and right now, Manish Pandey seems the best bet, although it remains to be seen if he is given a fair run to stake his claim. The other option is to play MS Dhoni at no.4, since it will give him the time he needs to build his innings and he isn’t the same player he was. This is one area Kohli and the management will have to sort out heading into the 2019 World Cup where the pitches are likely to be flat and conducive to batting.
When it comes to the lower middle-order, Kedar Jadhav has done pretty well but his recent lean run hasn’t helped at all. Shreyas Iyer has been given his debut during the ongoing South African tour because of Jadhav’s injury and he has done reasonably well so far. The middle order is a conundrum that India will have to solve because it’s unrealistic for the top three to perform every single time. It was their undoing in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan and India will have to be wary of that.
Hardik Pandya has more or less secured his spot as the team’s main allrounder with his impressive showings. He hasn’t been consistent always, but he has shown continuous improvement with both bat and ball and has become a key player who provides balance to the side. He has the X-factor in his batting and that is something India’s lower middle order lacks. The likes of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, who were mainstays during Dhoni’s rein have been phased out and they will have to perform exceedingly well to get back into this side.
The spin-twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have been a revelation and have spun a web against whoever they have come up against. With the increasing trend of leg spinners doing better in limited overs cricket, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have lost their places and these two have performed brilliantly in their places. Kuldeep, a chinaman bowler, and Chahal have complemented each other very well and this is one of the biggest differences that has happened under Kohli.
With these two leggies, Kohli has been aggressive in the middle overs and India have picked wickets during that period, which is key in ODI cricket. The fast bowling pair of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are India’s first choice and both have the ability to take wickets with the new ball as well as be very effective in the death overs. Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah have performed exceedingly well and are two of the best bowlers in the world, at the moment. The likes of Mohammad Shami, Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav are backup options now and maybe one place India could look at is to find a left-arm paceman who will provide variety to the attack.
All in all, Virat Kohli has done a very commendable job as the captain of the limited-overs side and the work towards the 2019 World Cup has well and truly begun. The pool of players is being identified and India already are one of the favourites to lift the World Cup next year in England at the famous Lord’s Cricket Ground.