Zimbabwe v India, 1st ODI, Harare July 23, 2013

Kohli praises young mates for successful transition

32

For most cricket teams, losing a generation of legends in a short space of time would be disastrous. Australia, seemingly stuck in an infinite rebuilding loop, are still reeling from the departure of their greats. Not so India. In barely more than two years, India's World Cup-winning side has been chopped, shopped and rendered barely recognizable, but their new school is ready and waiting to take up the mantle.

"If you have such big players going out of the team suddenly, you do feel a little weird initially but it's all about how you pick it up and the guys have done a brilliant job in that," said Virat Kohli on the eve of his first full series as India's (albeit temporary) captain. "A transition is never easy, and the guys have taken up the responsibility.

"You see Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan stepping into the shoes of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. It's not an easy task but they've batted beautifully for us the last two months, and that's been one of the main reasons for our success."

Suresh Raina captained the last India side to visit Zimbabwe, in 2010, and while he remains a fixture in the one-day side his potential as a future leader appears to have waned. A similar fate is unlikely to befall Kohli, who set off on the path that has brought him here a decade ago as a precocious 14-year-old captain in the Polly Umrigar Trophy. He was put in charge of India sides at Under-15 and U-19 level, and there is a sense of destiny being fulfilled in his current apprenticeship to the India captaincy.

He showed in the recent tri-series in the Caribbean, however, that he still has a lot to learn and readily admitted that he found that assignment, in the absence of the injured MS Dhoni, rather tough. "It was a good experience for me in the West Indies, although I was stepping in between games so it wasn't that easy because I field in every position when I'm playing under MS and it's very hard to analyze where the fielders are, what angles they're standing at, what bowlers to rotate when because you're focussing on just stopping the ball and giving your 100% in the field."

In Zimbabwe, he'll have a clear five matches against modest opposition to hone his skills and learn how best to balance instinct and strategy in the heat of the moment, as every good captain must. Kohli will be helped by the presence of six of the players who toured in 2010, as he did, and have some experience of mid-winter conditions in Zimbabwe, when the pitches are dry, the sun dips below the horizon early and the toss can become vitally important.

There's also the small matter of Duncan Fletcher and Trevor Penney's presence on the coaching staff. Both men were born in Zimbabwe, and have built reputations as two of the finest coaches going around.

"Guys who have played here before have shared that input, but Duncan has been a great help, not just for this series but overall since he's been coach," Kohli said. "He had really difficult times initially and was criticised a lot, but he's stuck with the team and stayed strong and we've seen the results now. We're really benefiting from all the experience he has - he has the best cricketing brain in the world and just has so much knowledge about the game.

"Him and Trevor Penney are both really excited to be here because they haven't been here for a while, so it's a good feeling to have both of them who've played here, helping us in that department."

India's squad has, potentially, five ODI debutants but Kohli downplayed the importance of experience, given the sheer amount of short-format cricket being played these days. "I don't think experience matters so much in one-day cricket, because we've played so much in the IPL back home that we know how to play in different situations. I think that's helped in a big way as far as limited-overs cricket is concerned.

"All the players in the team are quite young right now, and our careers are building up together. I think it's really exciting for Indian cricket, especially in the one-day format, that 15 players can sort of grow up together in international cricket. It's really important to have a strong bond in the team, and we have that right now."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • IndianEagle on July 24, 2013, 11:16 GMT

    dhoni is a good limited over captain and batsmen. But in test, he is neither a good batsmen nor good caption. He is way behind than others in tests.

  • sweetspot on July 24, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    @Debajyoti Choudhuri - Absolutely right. It would take many years and a great number of factors to come together to bring together an opening combination like Sachin-Ganguly. They were impossible to stop and could just step on it, without any savagery required. Beautiful to watch too. If I were a bowler, that's the one combination I would wish I did not have to bowl against right at the top of an already strong line up.

  • concerned_cricketer on July 24, 2013, 9:36 GMT

    @Nutcutlet, Agree with you on Duncan Fletcher's value and to a large extent on the less than fair treatment given to DF by the indian supporters. We have to also keep in mind that not all of this group that you call 'Indian supporters' have played a lot of cricket and therefore instinctively know the source when they see changes such as the improvement in fielding, selecting and stciking with players that have long term potential even if not the celebrity type etc. Here is where the media plays a huge part and make the public aware of what are the strengths and methods of a certain coach. Gary Kirsten got good assistance from the media in this matter even though he too never tried playing the media like some earlier coaches did. I think it is time for the Indian media to lend some support to DF and remind the public to think about DF's role init, even if not overtly evident.

  • srikanths on July 24, 2013, 7:46 GMT

    No doubts about Dhoni's success in One dayers . He has been extraordinary but let us also remember that he had the advantage of World Cup being played in conditions suitable to Indian players. Ganguly's team made it to the Finals in SA which are quite difficult

    Dhoni did win 20-20 in SA. 20-20 and ODI he has had outstanding success but Tests is a matter altogether different, Saurav Ganguly may have won fewer matches but he had great suucess against tougher opposition in OZ as well as England. Fair point to be argued is that he had a certain Dravid and Tendulkar at the peak of their powers. Dhoni has had to do with a Tendulkar in decline ,atleast the last two years and a Sehwag is decline

  • Nutcutlet on July 24, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    Good - and long overdue - Kohli has publicly acknowledged Fletcher's & Penny's input that has seen the recent improvement in the selection, commitment & mind-set of the top Indian players. So many Indian supporters (quite different from cricket-lovers, as swathes of posts hereabouts constantly demonstrate) have been so quick to blame DF for short-term short-comings in the national sides whilst failing to see the jigsaw beginning to come together. It takes time for a coach to explain & then exert his ethos on a team, but when the coach has a vision, a plan, and is not deflected from it (& the plan itself is founded on deep thought) then success becomes more probable. True to form, not a single post here underscores Kohli's endorsement of his coach, but that's fine by DF. He doesn't court publicity, nor will he have any truck with the cult of personality that seems to hypnotise western as well as Indian society. BTW, has anyone ever seen Indian cricketers field so well? Now ask why! 1p!

  • amit_sanghai on July 24, 2013, 7:05 GMT

    This is true only in ODIs. India will still lose 12-0 in Eng, Aus and SA.

  • KishorKumar25 on July 24, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    Pujara, Raydu, Amit Mishra and Rassol MUST PLAY. Raina and Jadeja can be rested for a while... Selectors whould have rested atleast Raina for this series, He is been playing a lot.

  • Ankitsuperking on July 24, 2013, 6:23 GMT

    Opinions change so quickly..Not too long ago when india had lost 8-0 in overseas Test match, Fletcher was severely criticized for not having impact on the team l... But now with fortune changing, he is regarded as one of the best coaches....It is rightly said that Nothing Succeeds like success.......

  • himanshu.team on July 24, 2013, 5:32 GMT

    I think too much is being made of Kohli's comment on lack of experience. He cannot say that we have a lot of experience as I am leading this side and we have Fletcher and Penney. Nor can he admit that they are weak because they are in-experienced. He has to be positive and he, and the team, must not feel that having in-experienced players in the side is a weakness. That is exactly what he has done and this is how you motivate your team. I am perfectly with Kolhi and do not take this as a general statement. It is just for this tour and this squad. On this tour, not having enough experience will not hurt team India at all.

  • CrICkeeet on July 24, 2013, 5:17 GMT

    Best of luck 4 d both teams bt i guess Zim can giv a very tight fight in 2-3 games....