Exclusive | ICC World Cup 2019: ‘He is a capable leader, doesn’t need support, says Virat Kohli’s coach Rajkumar Sharma

New Delhi | ByAritra Mukherjee
May 25, 2019 12:48 PM IST

Putting his weight firmly behind his ward, Rajkumar Sharma said Virat Kohli will lead India to glory in the ICC World Cup 2019 in England.

35 victories in 50 matches, a win percentage of 70 in two and a half years as regular ODI skipper, one wouldn’t perhaps hesitate to term someone with such numbers a great captain, let alone a very good one. But India skipper Virat Kohli is not so lucky. Despite the results, Virat Kohli the captain is not looked at with the same adulation as Virat Kohli the batsman is.

Indian captain Virat Kohli chats with wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni(AFP/Getty Images)
Indian captain Virat Kohli chats with wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni(AFP/Getty Images)

“As far as I am concerned, tactically, there is still room for plenty of improvement as captain. I still see more room across formats for him to evolve. As a captain, Virat will evolve further,” India head coach Ravi Shastri had said despite India’s historic Test series triumph in Australia earlier this year. (Full Coverage of ICC World Cup 2019)

‘The captain is as good as his team is’ theory somehow falls flat when it comes to Kohli. And there are reasons behind it. Kohli sometimes fails to replicate the dominance he shows with the bat in hand while marshaling the troops in the field. The assertiveness with which he plays a cover drive lacks when he has to make a bowling change. In fact, in complete contrast with his character, Kohli lets former captain MS Dhoni take the centre stage during crunch situations of an ODI. But Rajkumar Sharma, Kohli’s childhood coach and someone who knows the Indian captain in and out, strongly disagrees with the notion.

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“He’s as good a tactician as he is as a batsman. Even when he was a teenager, he used to plan everything, field placements, bowling changes… He is a tremendous leader and his record speaks for himself. If you see his last 2 years’ record then he has been just brilliant,” Rajkumar Sharma told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.

Sharma had an interesting take on Kohli’s decision to go in the outfield during slog overs of an ODI and let Dhoni take the charge. “He has to go in the outfield because he’s also the best fielder of the side. That doesn’t mean he needs anybody’s support. People can advise him, that’s alright but he’s a capable leader himself,” said Sharma.

After Rohit Sharma’s success in IPL and his returns as an Indian skipper in the Asia Cup, there were also talks of split captaincy to ease the burden on Kohli. But Sharma feels Kohli is the best man to lead India in all formats of the game. “There is no reason for India to look for anyone else… T20s and ODIs are different and I cannot even think of comparing IPL and international cricket,” Sharma said.

Kohli himself admitted that the upcoming ICC World Cup 2019 will be the toughest assignment of his career. Despite averaging 80 in ODIs as a captain, Kohli doesn’t have the best of records in World Cups. In 17 matches in the world event, Kohli has scored 587 runs with 2 centuries at an average of 41.92, which is considerably low from his career average of 59.57.

“I don’t think there will be any pressure. He’s someone who loves challenges and he’ll enjoy playing under pressure. I think with such a huge responsibility on his shoulders he will do well,” Sharma added.

Putting his weight firmly behind his ward, Sharma said that Kohli will lead India to glory in England. “India go in as the favourites and one of the main reasons for that is Virat. The team has been playing really well under him and I believe we have a great chance of winning the cup,” said Sharma.

India play two warm-up games against New Zealand and Bangladesh before playing their first match of World Cup 2019 against South Africa on June 5.

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    Aritra Mukherjee, who happens to be a journalist, is in an eternal relationship with food and sleep. He can, however, sacrifice both or at least the latter for his love-affair with cricket. 'He said,' 'he added,' 'he signed off' are some of his favourite phrases. When not juggling between food, sleep and cricket, he wastes time by surfing OTT platforms.

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