However, in January 2018, we are 0-2 down and face a whitewash on the eve of the third Test at Johannesburg. While there are many issues being analysed regarding our recent debacle, the arrogance or aggression or verbally abusive behavior of captain Virat Kohli have come into sharp focus.
Though not really. Kohli was like this from the very beginning. Arrogant and brash! Tonnes of articles were written about how this would severely affect his game. But it didn't. He got better and better.
Then he became captain. So the critics said he would have to change at least now or it would affect his game. It didn't. He still got better. Kohli is one of the rare breeds of players whom captaincy had no effect whatsoever.
The great Sachin Tendulkar wilted under the pressure of captaincy. Sourav Ganguly's batting went into decline as captain. When Rahul Dravid was not captain in Tests, he averaged 53.7 as against 44.5 during captaincy.
Before Kohli was made captain, his Test average was 41.1. As captain, he averages an amazing 65.9. That kind of average is unheard of in modern day Test cricket.
And it's not as if the base is small. As captain, Kohli has made 3361 runs in 34 matches.
Basically, Kohli soaks all the pressure and over-performs. That's a rare talent. In ODIs Kohli, averages 74.5 as captain and that's a crazy figure. While chasing in ODIs he has 17 centuries in winning causes.
He is a big match player too. In the 2011 ODI World Cup final, he steadied India with an 83-run partnership after we lost Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar cheaply.
In the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy he hit a half-century in the semis and top-scored in the final.
In the 2014 T20 World Cup he hit 72(44) in the semis, 77(58) in the final and in the semis of the 2016 edition it was 89*(47).
Now here's a thing. How much is this aggression important to Kohli's natural game? Can he do without it? Also, is it arrogance or aggression? Can you tell the difference?
If Kohli mellows down, will his form, leadership and big-match playing abilities also crash? We really don't have the answer to that key question.
The debate on the above is becoming all the more heated after our 0-2 loss to South Africa and Kohli losing his cool at a press conference after that. There are some who say that his aggression may be helping him, but not the team.
That also may not be the case if you go purely by results. Despite everything, Kohli still has a win-loss ratio of 4-1 in Tests, which is pretty high. He also has 7 foreign Test wins: 5 in Sri Lanka and 2 in West Indies.
In ODIs, he has a winning percentage of 78.6 compared to MS Dhoni's 59.8.
People point to the ICC Champions Trophy final where Kohli's tiff with gentleman coach Anil Kumble led to a Team India crash and maybe the reason why we lost the tournament.
Was Kohli arrogant in his behaviour to Kumble? However, reports say that more than 10 players may have complained against Kumble so it is quite unfair to blame just Kohli for that.
Lack of a proper schedule and poor team selection may have been the reason for our South Africa debacle. The BCCI is responsible for the former and Kohli the latter. But in the case of Kohli, was it arrogance or simply bad judgement?
Interestingly while there is no clear pattern in the shorter formats of the game, aggressive (and even obnoxious) teams seem to fare better in Tests. Donald Bradman's Invincibles were finally beaten thanks to the now illegal Bodyline.
The West Indian fast bowlers of the 1960s and 1970s would terrorize the batsmen with deliveries that seemed more suited to intimidation rather than taking wickets. Steve Waugh's nasty sledging was an integral part of his success.
The other two modern teams which do the best in overseas Tests are also badly behaved: England and South Africa. Their use of swear words have trumped Kohli in the past and their aggression-arrogance has led to many on the field tiffs and off-field feuds.
Even India started performing better in overseas Tests when Ganguly fought fire with fire and brought aggression into the Indian dressing room.
He used to keep Waugh waiting for the toss in the 2001 series. So was that aggression or arrogance? We won anyway.
A well-behaved India under a well-behaved Kumble was trailing 0-2 after the 2008 Monkeygate fiasco happened. A furious Kumble stepped on the field with a furious Team India on a green pitch at the third Test at Perth with four fearsome Australian fast bowlers. We won that Test!
So one doubts whether Kohli will change one bit no matter what happens in the third Test at Johannesburg. Of course, if the 2011-12 twin whitewash of Australia and England repeats itself in 2018-19 and we continue getting thrashed in Test series on foreign soil after that, then just not Kohli, the BCCI will have to rethink the way India play Tests in the first place.
Till then Kohli’s critics will continue to call him 'arrogant' and his fans 'aggressive'.
And one feels Kohli will listen to none of them anyway.