Meet Virat Kohli's gentle giants
- The victory in Pune not only earned India their eleventh consecutive home series win, it was also Virat Kohli's 30th Test victory as captain
- Thirty wins in 50 Tests would make any captain proud
- India are leading the three-match Test series against South Africa 2-0
RANCHI: Old-timers often say cricket is not a gentleman's game anymore. One can always say it never was. The highly controversial Bodyline series was played way back in 1932-33, not to mention underarm bowling or ugly spats between players and umpires in olden times. So it's just that today's cricketers are more expressive.
That is why fist pumps, jumps and talking to some invisible detractor has become the norm. An animated sendoff has overpowered the smiling high-five with teammates after taking a wicket. You cannot win without beating your rivals psychologically. Hence in-your-face aggression is the need of the hour. Very few embody the expressive, passionate modern cricketer more than Virat Kohli. He has results to show for it, both as a batsman and as captain.
The victory in Pune not only earned India their eleventh consecutive home series win, it was also Kohli's 30th Test victory as captain. Thirty wins in 50 Tests would make any captain proud. But it is interesting to note that this high percentage of success since he took over from MS Dhoni in 2014 has been achieved by a team that has its fair share of old-fashioned gentlemen cricketers alongside mavericks like Kohli himself, Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant Sharma. Let's examine how they have contributed to Team India's success in the Virat raj...
(Tests: 42; Wkts: 233; Best bowling: 7/59; Bowling ave: 23.42; 5 wkts: 18; 10-wkt match: 5)
Eleven consecutive home series wins would not have been possible without this softspoken off-spinner. The only time he lost his cool was in 2016 when James Anderson suggested Kohli was a flat-track bully. The offie often warms the bench on foreign tours but has been unplayable in India. A keen follower of other sports and interested in saving rivers, this intellectual cricketer has taken 233 of his 356 Test wickets under Virat's captaincy.
Even men like Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers have found the going tough against him on Indian wickets.
Averaging close to 50 in first-class cricket with a triple century against his name, Mayank could have made his Test debut earlier. But it served him well that he did it when Virat and his men made history by winning a series Down Under for the first time. The babyfaced 28-year-old missed out on a century on debut. However, his consistency in Australia was an important factor in India's triumph. His double hundred and century in the ongoing series will settle the opening question for some time. His ever-improving catching ability at bat pad is also an asset.
His Supermanesque catches in Pune will fade from memory sooner than later. But coming off a long injury layoff which, at one point must have made him wonder whether his international career was over, Saha has showed why Kohli thinks he is the best wicketkeeper in the world. Saha is not one of those chirpy stumpers who keeps giving pep talks from behind the stumps. He lets his gloves do the talking. His batting average may not make everyone happy but his impeccable keeping to the spinners on turners at home and to pacers abroad have been very impressive.
Style is the man, they say. In Pujara's case it is the batting style. He bats like a young monk who is not tempted by anything, not even his teammates' strike rate. Perhaps that is the reason he is often accused of playing too slow like Geoffrey Boycott. But he has given Kohli's bowlers crucial runs for memorable wins. It would not be an exaggeration to say the historic series win Down Under would not have been possible without Pujara's stellar show.
It would be difficult to make a Martian believe that this diminutive man with the eyes of a struggling poet can take on someone like Mitchell Johnson and hit his 140kmph-plus bouncer to long-on like a forehand. Rahane's show at home has been moderate but he has been a different batsman in places like Australia, England and South Africa. The only Test India won there on the last tour was the one he played in. Too bad the series was over by then.
The vice-captain also stands quietly at slip beside Saha, making many a difficult nick off Ashwin and Jadeja look like an easy take.
(Tests: 12; Wkts: 62; Best bowling: 6/27; Bowling ave: 19.24; 5 wkts: 5)
Last but not the least. Bumrah has picked up five or more wickets in an innings five times already, playing only 12 Tests, all away from home. He has become the fastest Indian to 50 Test wickets without staring or swearing. A fast bowler with a disarming smile is hard to come by but then Bumrah is one of his kind. Thanks to Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, Bumrah is not being missed against South Africa, but everyone wants to see his shy smile again. Except opponents.