India cricket May 2, 2013

Let Virat Kohli be

Parth Pandya, India
He can be Rahul Dravid's batting successor, even if he doesn't emulate his grace and demeanour

It's been a little over a year since Rahul Dravid exited international cricket. Dravid mastered the art of batting like few others in the game did, and his impeccable technique needs no further documentation. But Dravid's legacy doesn't end there. Way beyond those cricketing meadows does the legend of Dravid reach and it transcends the concept of greatness in sports in its commonly known form. Years from now, people will talk more of the demeanour he maintained despite tasting rare success.

This brings us to the question of Virat Kohli and his recent shenanigans as the Royal Challengers Bangalore captain. It began with a rather avoidable scuffle with his Delhi and India team-mate Gautam Gambhir, and took an inopportune turn following events at the Wankhede Stadium.

Kohli is one of the brightest prospects going around in world cricket. Going by the finesse and technical perfection of his batting, it is hard to think of a worthier Indian successor to the legacy of Dravid - apart from Cheteshwar Pujara of course. But batting prowess alone may not prove enough for Kohli to take over as Dravid's successor; it will also need an image overhaul, that currently seems as unlikely as Xavier Doherty spinning a ball.

That said, does India really need a batsman of Kohli's calibre to emulate Dravid in the way he carries himself? Can't we for once keep the context restricted to cricketing matters alone? Yes, Dravid personified everything that a role model should be, but there's a reason why that breed is getting rarer by the day. That Virat Kohli probably doesn't belong in the same league is just fine - much less an issue of national concern. As long as he bats consistently, there isn't a reason for idealists to reprimand him to this extent.

The big question is whether Kohli is suited to lead India in the future, given the kind of temperamental troubles he's had. For quite some time now, he has been projected as the successor to MS Dhoni, and quite rightly. Of the current generation of players, he was the first to cement his position in the side, and is expected to be at the peak of his game in the next five years. But these concerns that are voiced regarding the handover of captaincy to someone not so lovable are unfounded, unwarranted and extremely harsh.

Dhoni is in no mood to relinquish the leadership role any time soon. He may very well continue to lead India for another couple of years, and there's every chance Kohli may have learnt more about his cricket, about himself and about his responsibilities by then and that will reflect in his conduct. And even if Kohli doesn't change, how exactly does that do any harm from a cricketing perspective?

For starters, Kohli is not one of those new kids who are unable to handle this sudden rise to fame. He's done the hard yards, and emerged through the first-class grind. Little do people know about his decision to bat for Delhi in a Ranji game on the day of his father's death - certainly not the sign of an athlete who lacks in commitment or character.

One of the many things Sourav Ganguly taught the Indian team was to be aggressive when it mattered. His brand of expressive, aggressive and in-your-face demeanour only enhanced his leadership skills. Kohli could well be a leader in the Ganguly mould. Without trivialising Kohli's lack of discipline, it's important that people just let him breathe easy. Little do we know about the person he is, and it is unfair on our part to judge him for his spur-of-the-moment outbursts.

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