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Virat Kohli and Joe Root: a tale of two contrasting captains

One burned with the desire to win and excel at Test cricket, the other has been the epitome of poor leadership, compounded by bad luck

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
One of these men is a model Test captain; the other close to its opposite  •  Associated Press

One of these men is a model Test captain; the other close to its opposite  •  Associated Press

This is a tale of two cricket captains; one very good at his job and the other a failure.
The successful captain is Virat Kohli of India. When Kohli took over after the successful reign of MS Dhoni, there was one major concern: would his boundless enthusiasm cloud his judgement as leader?
There's no doubt Kohli was an exception as captain; he didn't curb his enthusiasm but he was still able to lead the Indian team to a higher level. With the capable assistance of vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, he lifted India to overseas success like no other captain had done.
His two personal major overseas successes were Australia in 2018-19 and England in 2021. At home his side was virtually unbeatable, with only a loss apiece to Australia and England in 31 Tests.
Kohli took the legacy of Sourav Ganguly and Dhoni and substantially built on it in seven years at the helm. His biggest disappointment as captain was the recent series loss to South Africa after India led the away series 1-0, though he didn't captain in the middle Test of that series, in Cape Town.
One of Kohli's great achievements was instilling in his team a craving for Test cricket. Despite his all-encompassing success, Kohli's major aim was to achieve victory in the Test arena and this is where his passion really shone.
There is no doubt that Kohli drove his men hard but it's also apparent they enjoyed competing and wanted success. Kohli has a number of individual achievements in his resumé, none bigger than the development of Rishabh Pant as a wicketkeeper and batter. Kohli tended to get his way when it came to selection and some of his decisions in this area were a little questionable but there's no doubting his support of Pant was a master stroke.
Performance is another factor in ranking a captain and in his Tests as captain, Kohli averaged a masterly 54. He also has to be commended for resigning at a time of his choosing.
Former great Australian allrounder Keith Miller best summed up retirement when he explained: "I wanted to finish while people were asking why did you, rather than why didn't you?" Kohli got it right, though he didn't go out having achieved his final ambition.
The captaincy failure, despite having led his country more times than any other captain, is Joe Root. It doesn't matter what Root or any other English devotee tells you, Root is a fine batter but a poor captain.
He was never going to be a successful leader. Though England under him have a reasonably presentable record at home, Root has lacked imagination as a captain, quickly run out of ideas, and showed little "gut feel" for the game. Too often his choice of bowlers to begin a session caused head-scratching, but the real killer were his tactics: they often made no sense.
There is a distinct feeling that Root listened to far too many off-field advisers. A good captain has to take charge and this was an area where Root failed dismally. There's no doubt his last tour was badly hampered by player injuries and he was poorly treated by fate. Nevertheless ten Tests for eight losses and two unflattering draws is a fair summation of Root's leadership in Australia. It was poor captaincy accompanied by bad luck.
To suggest that the answer to the leadership void is Stuart Broad lacks understanding of cricket captaincy. Apart from Broad's advanced (cricket) age and articulate off-field responses, he's a negative influence - particularly with field placings - and would be a poor choice as captain.
In press conferences Root kept saying, "We are going to learn from our mistakes and take the positives out of this match." This raised the question of precisely when they were going to learn. England kept making the same mistakes under Root and rarely learned. Although it will be a difficult task, if England want to improve, they first have to find a new and capable captain.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist