Game changer?

IPL experience doesn't prepare one for Tests either. Certainly not when you have match-winners like Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Daniel Vettori by your side. Besides, Kohli didn't quite do a Shane Warne — the Royal Challengers Bangalore aren't really a "rag-tag no-star" unit like the Rajasthan Royals.

So what has Kohli done when he put a captain's armband on his whites? In the last few years, he has led two teams in the longer version of the game. Being part of a Delhi team that had Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Aakash Chopra, Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia, Kohli never had much say on the field in his early days. Three seasons after his Ranji debut, with the big stars on national duty and a few seniors injured, Kohli led Delhi in two one-sided contests against relatively modest domestic sides like Saurashtra and Maharashtra.

His big test as a skipper came when he took the North Zone side to Rajkot, a venue known for its dead track, to face a West Zone side that had batsmen like Wasim Jaffer, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. With his just-above average bowling attack, Kohli was clueless on the field as his opponents made more than 1,100 runs in two innings. In the first innings, the eighth wicket pair of Abhishek Nayar and Ramesh Powar put on 200 runs as North Zone used 10 bowlers. In a nutshell, Kohli at Rajkot was not very different from Dhoni at Mumbai or Kolkata during the Test series. The adage about captains being as good as their teams certainly has some truth to it.

Moreover, tactics are generally dictated by the quality of men in the ranks. After being blamed for being over-defensive throughout the England series, Dhoni was criticised for picking four spinners for the final Test at Nagpur. But a pragmatic look at Team India will help one understand the Indian skipper's decisions. Dhoni didn't have a 140 kph-plus bowler on the bench who could partner the inconsistent Ishant Sharma, neither did he have a highly disciplined bowling unit that would stick to bowling to the field the skipper sets. Michael Clarke, with the likes of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Ben Hilfenhaus and Shane Watson could afford to crowd the square with men as Australia pushed for a win against Sri Lanka at Hobart. Not Dhoni with his inexperienced and inaccurate bowlers.

... contd.

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