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What Kohli needs to learn from Dhoni as a captain

As we will enter into the post-Dhoni era soon, What Kohli needs to learn from Dhoni as a captain.

Last updated: 23.04.2019
Kohli and Dhoni in a conversation on field | Sports Social Blog

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It’s been over 4 years since MS Dhoni hung his boots in test cricket midway through the Australian series. He passed the baton to a young Virat Kohli who had almost won the first test in Adelaide in a thrilling chase. That chase had demonstrated the core of Virat Kohli's cricketing ideology and signs of what was to come in the future under Kohli’s reign- going for the kill irrespective of the odds. Their captaincy styles and aura retain contrasting features which depict the sign of times. Dhoni- the old India, poised, calm, measured and at the center of stoicism. Kohli- the new India, unabashed, audacious and uncompromising.

Virat Kohli has had a stellar record as a captain in international cricket. Under him, India has a win-loss percentage of 73.88 in ODIs, behind only the great West Indian team of Clive Lloyd and the invincible Aussie team of Ricky Ponting. But, how much of that can be attributed to Kohli’s acumen as a captain? There are no arguments against the fact that India has been one of the best teams in the world, particularly in the shorter format of the game. In ODIs, Kohli has the cushion of MS Dhoni to fall back on when the chips are down. Often times, Kohli is seen placing himself at long on and letting Dhoni call the shots. Thus, it’s in Dhoni’s absence that Kohli’s glaring inefficiencies as a captain are in the foreground.

Kohli’s real test as a captain started with the overseas cycle in December 2018 when India toured South Africa. He made some very questionable selections in the series, playing Rohit Sharma instead of Ajinkya Rahane in the first two tests and dropping Bhuvaneshwar Kumar in the second test. This trend followed in England where he dropped Pujara at Edgebaston and played two spinners on a green track at Lord’s. One of Dhoni’s greatest strengths as a captain is backing his players and giving them a long rope to find their feet, as has been admitted by both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who were the fringe players under Dhoni’s tenure. Kohli had a horror start to his test career when he scored 76 runs in 3 matches in his debut series against the West Indies. Dhoni’s continued backing came to fruition when Kohli scored his maiden ton against Australia in Adelaide, as the rest of the batsmen capitulated at the other hand.


Kohli’s tendency to chop and change the side at the slightest bit of discomfort is only wounding the team’s morale.  Every player needs security and stability to flourish, and that has been an aspect that Kohli’s captaincy is lacking. A safe takeaway from this is that it is likely Kohli the batsman wouldn’t have flourished under Kohli the captain. Now, let’s talk about the on-field facet of Kohli’s captaincy. He isn’t the most tactically gifted leader around. He’s an extremely reactionary captain who follows the ball, rather than following the game and resorts to defensive tactics, even at the smallest hint of runs. He is very animated on the field and often takes it out on the players when he’s under the pump, contrasting Dhoni’s approach on the field. World T20 2007 and his time with Chennai Super Kings suggest how great Dhoni is in getting the best out of middling players. Kohli, on the flip side, has failed to inspire a team of stars to victory in the Indian Premier League yet.

In ODIs, Kohli has been better at team selections and on-field tactics because there is Dhoni to keep a check on him. When he has complete control over the reins, as the test team and RCB, he has shown to be wayward and uninspiring. His captaincy mostly revolves around leading the charge from the front with his performances and boosting the morale of the players on the field. So in a sense, he is more of a leader than a captain.

In the recently concluded historic series win in Australia, Kohli showed signs of improvement with his team selections and on-field tactics. That’s a good sign for the Indian team, as it prepares for the post-Dhoni era after the world cup.

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