There has been endless comparison of Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captains over the last few months. But if there is one man who knows the minds of these two great cricketers more than anyone else, it is Indian cricket team's former mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton.
The South African, who was also the coach of Rajasthan Royals in the recently-concluded season of Indian Premier League (IPL), has recently written a book about his experiences as a coach which contains numerous interesting episodes of his time with the Indian side.
Dhoni and Kohli
In an interview given to The Hindu, Upton talked about both the current and former captain of men-in-blue and how they compare to each other, both in their playing style and their leadership qualities. Talking about the 2011 World Cup campaign of India, where Upton was assisting chief coach Gary Kirsten, he mentioned how the star-studded batting line-up of India in that era was a big asset in any situation.
"The balance in that side was amazing. You had 11 players on any given day to give critical contributions to take the team across the line. You had the incredibly destructive Virender Sehwag opening with Gautam Gambhir. You then had Sachin Tendulkar coming in, and Kohli was coming into his own. You also had Dhoni at the height of his career. For a team to win, you probably need four players to fire on any given day. Any one of the 11 could have been those four players," the 50-year old explained.
But the most interesting comments made by him were about the mentality of the two batsmen still in the team. Comparing Dhoni with Kohli, the coach said: "Dhoni takes a lot longer, sometimes he falls behind, but takes over at the last minute. Kohli is slow poison. If he needs 7/over, he doesn't fall below that, he doesn't go way beyond, either. He doesn't give you an opportunity. At the end of the game, often quite unspectacularly, he is still there. In terms of understanding how to strategise an innings entirely, he is clearly one of the best, if not the best."
Any viewer of Indian cricket can testify to the correctness of Upton's statement. Kohli's record in chases is extraordinary and when he is at the crease till the end, India usually coast to a victory. On the other hand, the number of matches where Dhoni has taken the Indian side to a win in tense situations with few balls remaining is also countless.
The reason for Kohli's efficiency in hunting down targets lies in his ability to read the situation, believes the former member of Indian team's support staff. "He has learnt to understand what he needs to do when he walks out to bat in any format of the game. He finds the tempo, which he retains throughout the entire innings.
But Upton had great words of praise for the former skipper as well. "He (Dhoni) has calmness, composure, clarity. The knowledge that Dhoni would come to the crease after them makes other batsmen feel easier. He manages the high-pressure moments well. He has an intuitive feeling for the game," the former first-class cricketer added.