A fortnightly talk show hosted by one of India's most popular cricket commentators

'Comparing Kohli with Dhoni is a mistake'

Rahul Dravid and Aakash Chopra talk about India's tour of Zimbabwe - their new talent, their captain, and more (37:21)

Producers: Raunak Kapoor and Suketu Mehta

July 31, 2013


'Comparing Kohli with Dhoni is a mistake'

July 31, 2013

Jaydev Unadkat in action against Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe v India, 1st ODI, Harare, July 24, 2013
Jaydev Unadkat: now incoming © AFP

Excerpts from the discussion below. The numbers in brackets are the duration for each segment

Is the Zimbabwe-India series competitive, or will it be forgotten, or is it just a series to be played for individual landmarks? (2.35 - 3.31)

Rahul Dravid: I think a series like this is going to mean different things to different people. For the players who are benefiting from it, for the Amit Mishras, the Jaydev Unadkats, the Ambati Rayudus, Vinay Kumars, who have been on the fringes of the Indian side, not getting the opportunity in the big games, this is a life-saver. It gives them the opportunity to show their skills and say, "Look, we actually do deserve to play in the XV, we are earning the right to play for India." Even if it is an opposition like Zimbabwe, at least they are getting international exposure, and that is priceless.

So yes, from their perspective, it is a valuable tournament. Will this tournament be forgotten? Yes, I think so - in two years, none of us are going to remember the scorecards of India versus Zimbabwe in 2013. But for Zimbabwean cricket, I think it's a very important tournament. It's a lifeline for them. When India plays, the kind of revenues and moneys they can earn, it'll probably save their cricket. So for different people, this tournament means different things.

Who from the players just mentioned is taking the opportunity? Who is telling the selectors, "Look, I belong here?" (4.15 - 6.19)

Aakash Chopra: I think the obvious name that comes to mind is Jaydev Unadkat. I've played against him in the Ranji Trophy and I saw him as a one-trick pony, as someone who'd take the ball away from the right-hander and that's about it. In this particular series, what I've seen of him, I've been very impressed. He's learned to bring the ball back in to the right-hander, he's also picked up some pace and variations. So he's someone who has grown in stature as a cricketer.

Another one is Amit Mishra. He's been around forever. He's played 18 ODIs in ten years but now he's grabbing his opportunity with both hands.

I had sincerely wished that we set the right precedent from the beginning by giving players the right opportunities including Pujara, Rahane etc, but unfortunately in the batting department that hasn't happened.

Pujara has good numbers in List A cricket. Would you play him in the last two games and if so where? Is he not playing for fitness-driven reasons? (9.51 - 13.00)

AC: I would have played Pujara in all five games. I'd open with him alongside Rohit Sharma, and not Dhawan, because Rohit hasn't got runs. My initial plan would have been to play Rohit and Dhawan for three games each, and Pujara and Rahane would play all five, but that's not going to happen, so might as well open with Pujara and Rohit because Rohit's not got runs. Even though Dhawan's got runs and he would want to play, we must see what's in the team's best interests.

And this is where I feel Duncan Fletcher has to make that call. I think there are a couple of selectors there as well, because we can't expect Kohli to do that as he's just in his first tournament as captain. So they must ensure that all the players in the squad get an opportunity, though personally I feel they've already missed the bus: if you want to test Pujara and Rahane you have to give them real opportunities, not just in dead rubbers.

"Don't look for clones. If we were looking for Sourav Ganguly or that kind of guy, we would never have found Dhoni. If you're looking for Dhoni, you won't find a Kohli" Aakash Chopra

RD: You've got to give Pujara the opportunity to show whether he's a one-day player or not. His domestic performances tell you that he deserves the right to be given that opportunity. But yes, I think going ahead fielding is going to become very important, we saw that in the Champions Trophy and how important that was to India's success.

And once Dhoni and Duncan have seen that in the field, they're going to expect the same standard from all future guys who want to be in the side. But with the World Cup coming up in Australia, with two new balls, I would not want to write off someone like Pujara. I think he's got what it takes, he's definitely someone worth exploring, and it's nice to have these options.

We saw Dinesh Karthik come good in England but he's been inconsistent. Suresh Raina has struggled, Ambati Rayudu is coming in, Yuvraj we hear is training very hard to come back. Is there a stampede in the middle order now? (17.11 - 18.08)

RD: Yes, there is, and it's a good thing. There are some good young batsmen coming through, and [we have] people like Yuvraj waiting in the wings for someone to slip up. So the stampede at times isn't necessarily a bad thing - it keeps people on their toes. It forces people to keep performing regularly, to keep raising the level of their game, so I guess it's a good thing for India.

Happy with Virat Kohli as captain? Does he need to calm down a little bit or is that his style and works for him? This tour really wasn't to discover batsmen but Virat Kohli the captain, wasn't it? (18.15 - 22.30)

RD: I think the mistake we shouldn't make is comparing him to Dhoni. They are two very different people. I think in the end Kohli's going to be judged by his results. If we keep looking back and say, "We want someone like Dhoni", I don't think we are going to get it. I think it'll take a little bit of adjustment from the team as well. They're used to Dhoni captaining the side, and then you're going to have Virat coming in and captaining the side very differently, so the players need to adjust to the way they respond to the captain.

But from what I've seen, both here and in the IPL, Kohli's not putting a foot wrong. The main thing that he's doing is consistently performing himself as captain with the bat in hand and he's not done much tactically wrong. He's always going to be different from Dhoni, more expressive, more the heart-on-the-line sort of guy, but with time he'll grow, he'll learn, he'll know when to temper himself down. The way he reacted to the catch incident, I felt he could have reacted differently.

Being the captain, the focus and the spotlight is a lot more on you, but he is someone who keeps improving constantly. I've seen that in his batting, and hopefully he can carry on that improvement without the bat as well.

Virat Kohli acknowledges the crowd after reaching his century, Zimbabwe v India, 1st ODI, Harare, July 24, 2013
Dravid: "Virat Kohli as captain hasn't put a foot wrong" © AFP

AC: Completely agree with Rahul. Don't look for clones. If we were looking for Sourav Ganguly or that kind of guy, we would never have found Dhoni. If you're looking for Dhoni, you won't find a Kohli or someone else. So everyone comes in with their own set of strengths and weaknesses and their own way of handling things, but one thing that stands out in Kohli's case is that his batiing is not getting affected by the extra burden of captaincy, and when you're scoring runs, you earn the respect of your team-mates. Though the opposition here was never going to challenge him, he's still done all the right things and that's all he can do.

RD: I think since this isn't really a test for Kohli the batsman, maybe it would be a good opportunity for Kohli to bat lower down the order. Maybe bat at five or six and give some of the other guys a go.

Are you convinced about India's bowling? Is the Zaheer vacuum still to be filled? (23.00 - 24.28)

AC:I'd give my right arm for a fit and in-form Zaheer because he's a match-winner, he gives me wickets. Bhuvneshwar [Kumar] is still young but he's worth his weight in gold because he gives you those initial breakthroughs and that's imperative when you're bowling with these two new balls. But the bowling has been a concern.

We've seen in Zimbabwe that the first hour is conducive to fast bowling, the ball swings and seams, batting is a nightmare, but [India] still didn't dismiss a batsman in the first ten overs in the first two ODIs. So the bowling doesn't look that penetrating to me personally, and death bowling still remains a concern, and again that's where you miss someone like Zaheer. So if we can get Zaheer fit enough and stretch him to 2015 it'll be great because that cupboard otherwise isn't really brimming with talent.

Numbers Game question (32.25 - 36.26)

How many batsmen have scored more ODI hundreds in run-chases than Kohli, and who are they?

Posted by sents2013 on (July 31, 2013, 18:49 GMT)

Zaheer Khan is very rare find in India. A great bowler is hard to come buy in India. If he is fit, he should play. As well as a match winner and an all rounder like Yuvraj Singh is hard to get. He also should play, if he is fit. Two of the main reason for winning the World Cup. Also at Australian conditions these two come in very handy. Yuvraj plays fast bowling really well.

Posted by rick333 on (July 31, 2013, 18:47 GMT)

"I think since this isn't really a test for Kohli the batsman, maybe it would be a good opportunity for Kohli to bat lower down the order. Maybe bat at five or six and give some of the other guys a go. " Now only The Wall can think of it. Sir! you have set an exemplary standard of selflessness. It might be too much of an ask for someone like Kohli. tsk! tsk! and oh yes, I am a fan of Kohli too. But a devotee of The Wall!

Posted by   on (July 31, 2013, 16:42 GMT)

RD: I think since this isn't really a test for Kohli the batsman, maybe it would be a good opportunity for Kohli to bat lower down the order. Maybe bat at five or six and give some of the other guys a go...................Like...Super Like

Posted by Nampally on (July 31, 2013, 13:27 GMT)

Kohli & Dhoni are entirely different personalities, both on & off the field. So comparing them as captains or players is wrong. Having said that Kohlui seems to following the same philosophy as Dhoni's -i.e., playing the same XI match after match with his own trusted XI despite wayward Vinay. As for the value of the Zimbabwe tour, it is supposed to test the abilities of players like Pujara- blacklisted as "only good for Tests NOT ODI's". You cannot bench a World class batsman like Pujara under this excuse because there is very little difference between batting in Tests & in ODI's. Pujara has an excellent record in List A ODI's + best Test average for any Indian batsmen. Also Rahane, Mohit Sharma & Rasool need to be evaluated by playing them in XI. This is the main objective of Zimbabwe tour as I see it. It should be clarified that Yuvraj is competing with Jadeja whilst Karthik & Raina's place will depend on how consistent their batting is. In Unadkat I see a potential "Future Zaheer"!.

Posted by TellasisPatel on (July 31, 2013, 9:41 GMT)

Aakash Chopra: Even though Dhawan's got runs and he would want to play, we must see what's in the team's best interests. Did Aakash tell his bosses to send some less experienced person to cover Zimbabwe matches in his place? Coming back to the original topic of discussion, Virat Kohli is doing really great both as a captain and player and hope will continue to serve Indian Teams in those capacities for many many years! Let us not distract him from what he is doing right now. Thank you.

Posted by   on (July 31, 2013, 9:27 GMT)

Completely agree wiith what RD sir said! Virat is way diifferent from Dhoni bhai & all that can help him is his team's & country's support.. If only they keep calm & confide in him he'll surely aim at comiing up to their expectations! However. discouragement or comparison to MSD bhai is never gonna help a person like him! He is a diifferent side of the coiin & u don't wiin a toss through just one side! Thus, the other side should also be giiven an opportuniity, a Try!

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