Graeme Smith questions whether Virat Kohli is a long-term captaincy option for India

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Graeme Smith questions whether Virat Kohli is a long-term captaincy option for India

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SportsCafe Desk


Graeme Smith has raised a question about whether Virat Kohli is a viable option for a long-term captain for India citing his aggressive approach to the game. Sunil Gavaskar seconded the idea stating that Kohli would have to bring himself “down a level” for the eventual success of the team.

Since taking over the Test captaincy from MS Dhoni, Kohli has led the team in 34 Tests winning an incredible 20 matches. However, what is even more astonishing is that he has never gone ahead with the same lineup in consecutive games. Kohli has proved it time and again who the best batsman in the Indian side is and the latest one being his exceptional 153-run knock in Centurian in the second Test. 

"I don't know, when I look at him, if he is a long-term captaincy option for India. At the end of this year, he'd have been away from home for a while, the pressure he'll face, the scrutiny from the press - I know he only gets that in India - but if you're away from home and you're struggling for form as a team, I don't know if I'd want to burden Virat Kohli with that... Or if India have a better leader in that environment," Graeme Smith said on a show with SuperSport.

Former CoA member, Ramachandra Guha recently questioned the selection of Ravi Shastri as the coach of the side stating that Kohli had wanted someone who would agree with him in the dressing room. Smith, who is the Proteas’ most successful Test captain, had a viable solution if India want to go ahead with the 29-year-old at the helm of the side. 

"When I look at Virat, I think he needs someone in the support staff who can constructively challenge him and help him grow. He has all the capabilities tactically, he knows his own game, he sets the standard in the field for everyone else,” Smith added.

"I think if he had a really constructive person in his environment, who could talk to him, make him think, maybe even challenge him with some different ideas, in a constructive way, not an angry or aggressive way, but make him think, open his eyes to other possibilities, that would make him a really good leader.

"We all know he's an outstanding player, his intensity really benefits his own personal game, he loves that confrontation, that intensity brings the best out of him. Sometimes as a leader you've got to consider how you impact the others in the environment, that's an area of his leadership that he needs to grow. You can see, he's often at his players. He's very aware, he's focused on the game is on, sweeping or mid-on.

"[But] often his reaction to situations... I think that can sometimes impact on your team negatively. We all know how powerful Virat Kohli is in world cricket, in Indian cricket. For him, he's built this aura and for him maybe to find a level where he can connect with all his players, to get to a level where can get the Indian team to be as successful as he is, that's something that he, when I watch him, is grappling with."

Even Gavaskar had a very interesting take on the topic. Gavaskar said that Kohli's reactions to wickets falling at the other end in the Centurion Test would not have gone down too well with his teammates and it could be detrimental to the team’s cause.

"You might have some players who don't have the same understanding of the game, or the same fierce desire, but sometimes you have to bring yourself down to a completely different level. Down, not up. Because that is the only way you are going to get the others who are down up to a level that you want to be. By making them understand that this is not the level where you'll be doing well yourself, but rather where you are going to do well for the team to win,” Gavaskar said.

"Captains evolve in their thought process not only when they are captaining. On off days too, they are always thinking in terms of how can they take the team forward. And sometimes in that process, with that thinking - 'how do I take the team forward?' - you lose sight of simple simple things because as an individual you don't think it is not necessary for you - but it is necessary for some of the lesser guys... As soon as Virat realises that and starts to recognise that, he will become a better leader."

Smith seconded Gavaskar’s idea citing the example of AB de Villiers who, according to Smith, might not realize that the game does not come as easily to other players as it does to great ones.

"You can be the best player in the world, and you love that intensity and you often don't think what your team-mates are going through. Sometimes you talk to AB de Villiers, he gets down and reverse sweeps, he makes it look so easy, and sometimes you need to remind AB that other guys don't see it that way,” Smith explained.

"As a leader, you need to understand the whole environment, talk to the players to try to get the best out of the environment. He might grow as he learns to soften that a little bit. His performances speak for themselves, it's about whether he can get the best out of those around him when they are under pressure."

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