Virat Kohli may be the most important player in cricket, but no one is bigger than their team
Coach Anil Kumble’s departure citing an untenable relationship with his captain shows India are no closer to coming together as a unit
Virat Kohli is many things to cricket and arguably the most important player in the game, but one thing he shouldn’t be is bigger than his team.
Cricket is often an individual sport despite being played as a collective, but India have a knack of taking this to the next level on a consistent basis.
The departure this week of coach Anil Kumble after India lost the final of the Champions Trophy again brought to the forefront an issue that has plagued the side for decades – individuals being greater than the whole.
On stepping down, Kumble said his relationship with Kohli had become untenable and that “the captain had reservations with my style and about my continuing as head coach”.
Not even an impressive record that included 12 wins from 17 tests could save Kumble.
Watch: Virat Kohli makes 167 against England
No successful sporting organisation can thrive having the captain undermine the coach and it is for this reason India continue to be inconsistent in the test arena – very good at home but often ordinary overseas.
They had a sensational home summer with four series wins, but their inability to operate as a team has long been an issue and they have always struggled to contain their big personalities.
Former captain Sourav Ganguly certainly wasn’t backward in coming forward if he didn’t agree with the coach and, as good as he was, Sachin Tendulkar certainly gave off the impression that he preferred to be left to his own devices.
Surely even Tendulkar, the best batsman of the modern era, should have to contribute to the team environment?
Perhaps it’s a blessing for everyone else – with the weight of player numbers and resources they have at their disposal, it would be game over for the rest if India could form a tight-knit side.
Although they are quite a way out in front in the test rankings, they’re still going to struggle in places like Australia and England because they shrivel at the first sign of adversity. Great teams don’t do this.
In Kohli, India have a fantastic leader and one of their best captains in recent memory, rivalled only by MS Dhoni, but even he couldn’t build a team capable of being consistent overseas.
Kohli does have an ability to bring his team together that is rare in India captains, but he has yet to win a big series away from home and the jury will be out until he does.
He is a polarising figure that has the ability to infuriate opposition supporters because of his brilliant ability and, more so, his combatant nature and over the top celebrations and send-offs.
There is no doubting he is good for the game and he is quickly earning himself a status in India reserved only for the greats.
Kohli did not want the disagreement running wild on social media, saying “what’s most important is to maintain the sanctity of the dressing room, a sacred and private place”.
In Hong Kong for a sportsman’s lunch, former Australian quick Merv Hughes offered an interesting view on modern players.
On a short break from regaling the crowd with tales of his exploits on the field and in the bar, Hughes was quick to rebuff the idea that there are no characters left in the game.
His said there are just as many personalities now as when he played, but they are forced to wait until they are behind closed doors to let their hair down and express their emotions due to the all-encompassing grip of social media.
There is no doubt that test cricket is not what it once was from an entertainment point of view.
The cricket is as good as ever, but the players come across as robotic and the crowd interaction is nothing like it was when Hughes, Shane Warne and the like played.
That’s why Kohli is such an important player, with his willingness to get in the opposition’s face and do whatever it takes to win.
Love him or hate him, he captivates audiences the world over and he’s a joy to watch when in full flight.
His star will continue to rise, but whether that is to the overall benefit of India cricket remains to be seen. What’s to say he doesn’t get on with the next coach?
Kumble was a good coach and there is every chance his replacement will be too. But if Kohli is more worried about having things his own way than finding a way to work together and win matches, India will continue to produce inconsistent results.
Even Warne, arguably the best bowler of all time and one of the biggest personalities the game has seen, was able to put aside his considerable differences with John Buchanan for the good of team.
The entire Australia side that took all before them in the 2000s was made up of big egos, but they were able to make it work.
It has been the opposite in India for a long time and with King Kohli inheriting the throne, it seems Indian cricket will continue to be dictated to by its stars.
Good luck to them I say, it can only be a good thing for the rest of us.