Former England captain Mike Brearley believes Virat Kohli could become “too dominant a figure in Indian cricket” and that “it is a disaster and failure of the BCCI to not be able to grow Test cricket”.
He has also had his say on the two skippers of this epic Test series, insisting that Joe Root needs to improve his conversion rate of fifties to hundreds if he is to be considered at the same level as Kohli.
Brearley, author of the popular book The Art of Captaincy, told PTI that Kohli’s “ruthless streak” is what sets him apart from other batsmen in world cricket.
“Root has a poorer conversion rate in comparison to Kohli,” said Brearley, who is widely considered as one of England’s finest-ever skippers and man-managers. “But I think Root is a fine batsman too and I like seeing him do well. He is different a brilliant batsman and quite intelligent. He is not quite as good as Kohli but is still a thoughtful bloke.
“I think Kohli is best in the world and anyone who averages 50-plus in all three formats must be a very, very fine player. He can play in every mode and so can Joe Root. But there is something ruthless about Kohli and he converts all those fifties into hundreds.”
Kohli scored 149 and 51 but ended up on the losing side as England beat India by 31 runs in a thrilling first Test match at Edgbaston. However, Brearley believes that the defeat will be a “learning experience” for the India captain.
“It will make things a lot easier (in terms of expectations from him and the Indian team),” said Brearley. “There is intensity about this Indian team, about their bowling attack, and I think some of that comes from Kohli too. On occasion, it can make people nervous, but on the whole it animates them.”
Kohli gave opposing captain Joe Root the ‘mic-drop’ send-off when he ran his opposite number out for 80 on the first day, and Brearley questioned whether Kohli’s antics can have negative effects.
“The one thing you wonder about Kohli is if he is going to become too dominant a figure in Indian cricket,” said the former captain of Cambridge University, Middlesex and England. “He is shown great respect, as was shown to great Indian cricketers.
“He is like a deity, like others before him, the 3,000th Indian deity. But it is becoming something greater for Kohli at the moment as well. Will that be good for him and Indian cricket in the longer run?
“I don’t know whether it rubs off wrongly on some other players because for that you have to know the dressing room and how people react. It is possible that others are intimidated by Kohli’s aggressive personality.”
As a result, Brearley is of the opinion that Kohli’s captaincy traits are similar to that of former Australian skipper, Ian Chappell. “It was said similarly about Ian Chappell because he was very aggressive and not short of a word or two in the batsman’s ear. I think it is possible that some teammates might not enjoy it, and like in Chappell’s case, feel a bit on the outside.”
Brearley also feels that batsman Cheteshwar Pujara should have featured at Edgbaston and should replace KL Rahul at first drop.
“I am not sure about India’s chopping and changing (in the batting line-up),” he said. “I would have gone with Pujara at No.3 rather than Rahul. Pujara is someone who averages 50-plus in Test cricket and has played county cricket in England this year.
“He is likely to play a steady innings, blunt James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and enable Kohli to come a bit later when it is not moving a lot.”
Despite it being the 100th England men’s Test, crowds were low on the first two days at Edgbaston. Yet, Brearley feels day-night cricket is a potential solution.
“Day-night Test cricket should be tried whenever possible,” he added. “You will get people watching it. I think we will have terrific crowds this summer because India have a good following and English supporters usually come as well.
“But in India, numbers for Test cricket are shocking. They are the number one side in Test cricket and nobody goes to watch. It is a disaster and it is the failure of the BCCI to not be able to grow Test cricket and take a chance with day-night Test cricket.”