Now that Virat Kohli is, statistically, the most successful Test captain in the history of Indian cricket, it makes sense to discuss whether he is better than the man who is regarded by many as the greatest captain India ever had – Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The former skipper captained India in 60 matches and won 27 while Kohli has stacked up 30 victories in just 50 games.
Still, it seems that there is great reluctance among experts and fans to praise Kohli's captaincy or even remotely suggest that he comes close to MSD in captaincy skills. But why is that? Surely, a man who has more Test victories under his belt than any other Indian captain, and has led his team to their first-ever series win in Australia, deserves to be regarded as a serious contender for the title of being the best.
Some would suggest that the foundation of the current Indian team had been laid by Dhoni and Kohli is only reaping the rewards of it. But that is plain wrong.
When MS Dhoni became the India Test captain, the Indian team was on the ascendant. Yes, it was under MSD that India became no. 1 ranked Test team in 2010 but that ranking was based on their performances since the second half of 2006.
However, since 2011, the team went from disaster to disaster and ended up at no. 6 when he abruptly quit Test cricket. In Dhoni's tenure, his side had regained the reputation of being 'tigers at home and lambs abroad,' though they lost a home series to England also in 2012.
When Kohli became the full-time skipper, the Indian bowling lacked teeth and seemed only good-enough on square-turning wickets. There was hardly anyone in the pace attack that caused major problems to opposition batsmen. Batting also wasn't inspiring great confidence.
Under Kohli's leadership, Indian seamers became one of the best fast-bowling attacks in the world. Batting too, has prospered and nobody has contributed as much as Virat himself. Batsmen like Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara have been highly successful while Wriddhiman Saha has also contributed immensely with the bat in the team's rise to no. 1 position.
Many would say that Dhoni was a great tactician and strategist which Kohli is not. This, again, is an untrue claim. Dhoni's tactics failed very often and all the exotic tricks he tried were shown to be without substance.
But the biggest argument in favour of Kohli being regarded as the better captain can be made by looking at the very first match in which he led the Indian team. It was the Adelaide Test of 2014 – the first in the 4-match series. Virat had to take over because Dhoni was injured.
India were given a target of 364 to chase by Australia in the last innings of the match. The Indian team played brilliantly, led by their captain Kohli who scored his second hundred of the game. At one stage, it seemed victory was very likely for India. However, the Aussies rallied back and managed to keep India 48 runs short.
In the post-match presentation ceremony, the skipper revealed that his team had decided to go for the target rather than seeking a draw. Now, compare that with what happened at Dominica in West Indies in 2011.
In a Test between hosts West Indies and India, the MS Dhoni-led team had a target of 180 to chase in 47 overs. The team decided to settle for a draw when 15 overs were left and 86 runs were required, with seven wickets in hand. Yes, the series was already won, but for the no. 1 ranked side in the world, as India were then, to not go for the win was rather embarrassing.
This is the difference between Kohli and Dhoni. The legendary calmness Dhoni exudes often turned into lack of desperation for win. The raw aggression of Kohli, on the other hand, acts as the fuel propelling his team towards victory, even in difficult situations. That's why Kohli deserves to be seriously considered as a better leader than his predecessor.