Kohli has players to carry out his plans
By Veturi Srivatsa
The second Test India won against Sri Lanka at the P Sara Stadium in Colombo will also be remembered for an excellent speech by Kumar Sangakkara calling time on his cricket and the mantra he has passed on to his last international captain Angelo Mathews.
Sangakkara’s advice to Angie: “Just be fearless, don’t be afraid to lose when you are going for a win.” He could have as well passed it on to India’s young captain Virat Kohli, who is fast acquiring the reputation of being audacious and aggressive.
Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara, to give his full name, is too short and comfortable to pronounce compared to someone like his former teammates Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas or another fast bowler Uda Walawwe Mahim Bandaralage Chanaka Asanga Welegedara.
Sangakkara spoke extempore and from heart when he remembered all those who played a part in his life of which 15 years as international cricketer. His oratorical skills were unmatchable and no wonder Sri Lankan President, who was there to preside over his farewell function, offered him the High Commissioner’s position in Britain. There can be little doubt about his credentials to be a diplomat and his MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture four years ago has shown that he will also not mince words when he has to speak his mind out.
If the afternoon belonged to Sangakkara, he should thanks the Indians for leaving ample time to rejoice the occasion by wrapping up Sri Lanka’s second innings around lunch time — a sharp shower taking it a little beyond the break — to win the second Test by 278 runs to tie the series 1-1 with the final Test three days away.
All those who had expected Sangakkara to end his career in a blaze of glory did not reckon with the fact that he wanted to go after the World Cup and played the two Tests against India only to fulfill a commitment he made to the national selectors of playing four Tests before retiring — the first two against Pakistan last month and two in the current series.
For someone who has 12,400 runs from 134 Tests at an average of 57.40 an innings and 14,234 runs in 404 One-dayers, averaging almost 42, with 11 double centuries in Tests, he got flustered by Ravichandran Ashwin’s off-spin to be dismissed by him in his last four innings. To call him Ashwin’s bunny would be a travesty. To put it mildly, the Sri Lankan great was not in his element.
After listening to Sangakkara, Kohli’s post-match presser sounded like rabble-rousing. There is little doubt that Kohli can sway the media, at least during this honeymoon period of his. He has a ready explanation for everything thrown at him, leaving no room for supplementary questions.
He is happy at his first big win in five Tests and politely reminded that he should have won at Adelaide while deputising for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and at Galle in the first Test as full-fledged captain.
He does not accept there is a flux in the batting order, now compounded by injuries to Murali Vijay, Sikhar Dhawan and Wriddhiman Saha. For him nothing is a problem, everything is a challenge! He is willing to discuss every idea of his publicly.
He thinks Cheteshwar Pujara can open the innings as he has on a couple of occasions in Tests and sees nothing wrong in pushing batsmen up and down the order. Obviously, Ajinkya Rahane’s success at No 3 in the second innings of the second Test made him bold to talk back at his critics who questioned the move of disturbing someone who has been a great success batting at No 5 only to protect someone else.
He goes on to say that Rahane and Rohit Sharma can bat anywhere in the order and also with the tail for company. Rohit coming good with the bat gave him the opportunity to silence all those baying for his blood. All said and done Rohit continues to be an enigma.
Just as he defends his batsmen, he also talks highly of the bowlers, not letting them down. He made it a point to talk about the utility of Stuart Binny and his role in the first innings when he tied one end up bowling good lines in good areas. By doing that he made it clear he has abandoned his three-spinner theory without saying in so many words. Yes, he is willing to consider another pacer for the third Test, but not because of Binny’s fault.
Clearly, some of his bowling changes were a bit surprising if not baffling. At least one change in the first Test got glorified because of the result of the match. There were questions about his not bowling Ashwin soon after lunch when he was on a roll.
On the last day of the second Test, he changed bowlers after they took a wicket or looked like getting one and keeping a pacer at one end. The rain when the last Sri Lankan pair was at the crease might have made him miss a heart beat because everyone knows how it rains in the island nation. Luckily, it was a passing shower and it didn’t take long to finish things off.
Kohli also sent out a message to his teammates and fans: Whatever is happening or the reforms he is bringing about are in the best interest of the team and that’s the bottom line. He has players to carry out his plans. So long the players do not grumble and the positive results are forthcoming, none will complain. It won’t take long for the tide to turn.