Game changer?

Kohli for Test captain may not be the answer to Team India's troubles

As far as quick-fix solutions to sporting disasters go, change in leadership mostly wins the vote for its sheer convenience. It's an easy approach to investigating what went wrong, starting with the head and ending at the neck. The optimism of a fresh start under a new captain takes the attention away from unhealed wounds elsewhere.

So within hours of India's unexpected 1-2 Test series loss to England, the "sack Dhoni" murmur rose from the stadium and hit the streets. That evening, like so many times before, the nation's inveterate cricketing helpline, Ask Sunny, showed the light by suggesting a replacement. "Virat for Dhoni, it should be," said Sunil Gavaskar. Even halfway through the final Test, the master batsman-turned-voice-of-Indian-cricket was backing Dhoni, but suddenly he had a change of heart. Kohli's ton did it.

In his last innings, Dhoni, after playing 398 balls, fell short of the crease by an inch while going for a desperate single at 99. Kohli, the man at the other end, faced fewer balls but scored four more runs. Both were to finish the series with an average of 31, half of what specialist spinner R. Ashwin recorded in four Tests. But suddenly Kohli, 24, was seen as the man who could lead the team in this difficult time.

There is no denying that the Delhi boy is a gifted batsman with an insatiable hunger for runs. He can be an entertaining after-dinner speaker and out-sledge the sharpest tongues on the field. Having led India under-19, the Bangalore Royal Challengers, Delhi and North Zone, he is used to leadership roles. But are these credentials enough to be a Test captain?

Those who want Kohli to be fast-tracked to the top speak about his under-19 world cup win as captain. But ask anyone who has covered age-group cricket and they will tell you that under-19 teams are mostly run by coaches and managers. During India's famous junior triumph at Malaysia in 2008, renowned tactician and India coach Dav Whatmore controlled things from the sidelines. In the opening match, young Kohli, surprisingly, brought himself on before specialist spinner Iqbal Abdulla. The teen leader was put in his place after the game. Kohli rarely bowled again in the tournament.

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