Kohli's aggro mojo backfires

Last Updated: Mon, Aug 17, 2015 11:13 hrs

While we did have overseas Test victories from the late 1960s to the 1980s, Team India would by and large be apprehensive when visiting foreign shores. The 1990s was the absolute pits when we drew a blank outside the sub-continent.

We were whitewashed 0-3 in 1999 Australia and at that time it seemed we would never win a Test series abroad against a strong team. In fact we had even lost in Zimbabwe in 1998.

Sourav Ganguly had a job at hand when he had to lift the team in the 2000s, and he did a spectacular job by bringing in an aggressive attitude which rubbed on to the team and paid rich dividends.

India started competing consistently and when we visited Australia again in 2003, people were predicting a 0-4 whitewash but we ended with a tough 1-1. We won in Pakistan in 2004 for the first time ever.

In fact from 2003-10, forget a whitewash, we never lost by a margin of 2 or more Tests. A professional Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble succeeded Ganguly while the supercool MS Dhoni led India for a long time.

But in 2011 India finally unravelled and after twin whitewashes, they failed to compete in overseas Tests after that. The collapse started with stalwarts Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid and VVS Laxman and continued even after they retired.

Dhoni was at his wits end and finally threw in the towel. In stepped Virat Kohli who probably is even more aggressive than Ganguly. Many thought he didn't have the temperament to lead a side but he believed in fighting fire with fire.

But as a stop gap captain, Kohli had already proved himself winning 14 of his 17 matches leading an ODI side. However the current Sri Lanka series was a big test for him and his first full series as permanent captain against a Top 8 team.

And Kohli has made it clear that aggression is going to be his middle name. He went in with five bowlers, an extreme rarity for India. Initially it looked as if Kohli had lost an important toss as Sri Lanka chose to bat at the first Test at Galle, but Kohli went all out.

The fast bowlers kept up the pressure with their short stuff and got the initial breakthroughs and later the spinners tightened the screws. Kohli attacked as a captain and set aggressive fields to back his bowlers.

Sri Lanka kept losing wickets regularly and was 183 all down. When Kohli batted he showed absolutely no sign of pressure and scored a crucial century. He now has four tons in four Tests as captain.

Both Ganguly and Dravid saw their batting decline when they became captain but not Kohli who is unfazed by nothing and that is very good news for Team India.

India took a very comfortable first innings lead, but Kohli opened with R Ashwin (who had a 6-wicket haul in the first innings) and Amit Misra (who was on a hat-trick in the first innings) and both took a wicket apiece to have Sri Lanka reeling at 5/2 at the end of the day.

The next day morning the fast bowlers came down hard with their short balls and it was surprising to see umpires call them regularly for wide balls for height!

And at 94-5 it really seemed that Kohli's aggression was paying off and we were heading for an innings victory. There were a couple of decisions that could have gone in our favour and the Lankans could have well become 100-7.

However it didn't go India's way and the visitors totally collapsed. All the aggression was thrown out of the window. It was Sri Lanka's aggression that saw them post a whopping 367.

Still all was not lost and we still could have chased 176. However the Indians instead of being aggressive gave one of their most spineless and meek performances ever and in the end it was Sri Lanka that crushed us.

So was it all misplaced aggression and did the Kohli strategy back fire?

If you look at the past then you may remember that in a washout New Zealand series in 2002, Virender Sehwag was the only aggressive batsman of the tour and the only one to score a century in both sides in a low scoring tour.

We won our first Test in South Africa only thanks to some fiery bowling by S Sreesanth.

After the 0-8 overseas Test debacle in 2011, we have only one Test win outside the sub-continent. In that Lord’s Test, it was Ishant Sharma who bounced out the English batting attack in the second innings with his fiery spells.

It is clear that aggression is our only chance of winning Tests abroad and now Kohli will be really in a conundrum as he heads to Colombo. Should he continue with his aggression till it pays dividends or should India decide to do a U-turn and go slow and steady much against his nature?

Either way Team India hurtles from one disaster to another when it comes to overseas Tests!

So here's more strength to Kohli and the return of aggression in Team India!

The author Sunil Rajguru is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at http://www.sunilrajguru.com/