Troubles for Team India in the ongoing Test series against South Africa do not seem to come to an end. From bizarre selection policies to musical chairs of the openers to poor batting and wicketkeeper problems; Kohli has seemed to put himself and the team into a never-ending spiral of issues that seem to escalate with every decision of the captain.
The biggest of all problems for Kohli was the absence of a guiding force in the Test team, something he has in form of MS Dhoni in the limited overs format. Kohli loses his cool when things don’t go his way and in limited overs formats, he has MS Dhoni to keep him calm and take on the responsibility of setting the fields, so that Kohli can take care of other things.
Team India had been reliant on Wriddhiman Saha since the retirement of MS Dhoni in 2014. Apart from missing a few matches against England, Saha had been brilliant behind the stumps to both quicks and spinners, especially during the year-long home season. He batted decently against the likes of Australia, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand.
But failure in one match with the bat raised questions on how Team India needed a keeper who could bat and reserve keeper Parthiv Patel was called in the second Test. Though Patel succeeded in making some runs, his faulty keeping led to Proteas batsmen getting lives and scoring some much-needed runs.
Now with Saha out of the series, team management drafted Dinesh Karthik into the team, as the batsman-wicketkeeper. Karthik will play his first Test for India since 2010 and Kohli will be really missing MS Dhoni in the whites.
Recently, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar pointed out that MS Dhoni retired a bit too early from the Test format and having him in the team would have been very good for Kohli as the new captain.
There are three main areas where Kohli would have gotten lots of guidance and help from MS Dhoni in the Test arena.
Virat Kohli, though an aggressive captain, sometimes seems to be devoid of any plan or strategy and looking for answers. His reasons for picking Rohit over Rahane seemed to be empty and when he dropped Bhuvneshwar for Ishant, it seemed like; Kohli was going by his gut rather than strategizing or planning.
On the field, MS Dhoni was one of the brilliant tacticians ever. One of the best examples came in the Lord’s Test of 2014 when he asked Ishant Sharma to bounce out the English batting and despite Ishant’s reluctance, made him follow his instructions and the rest is history.
Such out of the box thinking might have come in handy for Kohli when De Villiers or Du Plessis was going great guns in both the Tests and Dhoni would have definitely thought out of the box to dismiss them or would have tried something, rather than wait for something to happen.
Despite being the last Test team to adapt the DRS system, Team India and MS Dhoni became proficient in its use. Dhoni has been so successful in his calling for DRS, that fans have suggested changing the name of DRS from Decision Review System to Dhoni Review System.
Virat Kohli, on the other hand, is sometimes influenced by his bowlers or his over-eagerness and calls for DRS at the wrong moments and often ends up wasting them. In limited overs cricket, Kohli first looks for Dhoni, before calling for DRS. More often than not, Dhoni is correct with his DRS calls and it has helped India a lot on important moments.
Right now, Virat Kohli does not trust his wicketkeeper, who is the best judge of LBW decisions from behind the stumps and usually calls for DRS on basis of his bowlers’ enthusiasm. It has happened that Saha didn’t show any excitement for a call and Kohli went for DRS just because his bowler was confident.
It wouldn’t have happened with MS Dhoni since Kohli looks up to Dhoni and his guidance is key in calling for DRS correctly and not wasting them.
Many would argue that MS Dhoni didn’t score any century outside the Indian subcontinent during his 90 Test career. But many would agree that having him coming in at no.7 was more assuring than anything else.
His innings at Lord’s in England, where he stonewalled to earn a draw for India was as brutal his 224 against Australia at home. He has played a valiant knock in South Africa as well, a score of 90 in the first Test of the 2010 series.
Currently, Virat Kohli is in search of a wicketkeeper who is not only safe behind the stumps but also can bat better than what he has at his disposal currently. This problem of a wicketkeeper, who cannot bat outside the subcontinent; has led to India calling for a keeper, known for his batting, despite the fact, he played his last Test for his country, 8 years back.
MS Dhoni had the skills to stonewall or attack dependent on the situation and though he might not have hit a century in any Test outside India, he has saved India from embarrassing defeats many times, all thanks to that unorthodox style of his.
The only solution for Team India to perform well in the upcoming series against England, New Zealand and Australia will be to find a keeper that can handle the bat in tough situations and may Kohli can ask MS Dhoni was his help in grooming a youngster for such situations, while working with a stop-gap solution for that while.
By Jatin Sharma