Gesture politics: ex-Pakistan captain who achieved little attacks captain who has transformed India

Sometimes one has to wonder what actually constitutes “news”. Cricket is very well covered from the online, written perspective. But all too often, the need to fill virtual space means the news is really non-news.

A headline that read “Ex Pakistan captain banned for ten years for match fixing doesn’t rate current Indian captain much” would fit squarely into the “why bother” category. But bother someone did, so let’s examine the claim and its validity.

As India lost the World Test Championship final to New Zealand by eight wickets, it marked the third instance that under Virat Kohli the team had come close but couldn’t get its hands on an ICC trophy. Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt feels Kohli’s captaincy has certain things lacking, which is why he is not able to cross the final hurdle. The additional fact that Kohli hasn’t won an IPL title is what Butt feels gives his statement more validation.

“You can be a very good captain but if you don’t win any title, masses won’t remember you. Maybe you are a good captain and have good plans but your bowler may not be able to execute it. So, luck has to be on your side as well. People only remember those who win tournaments,” Butt said on his YouTube channel.

“Sometimes you may not be a great captain but your team may be very good and you may end up winning a major title. So that does not define a captain but for the world, of course, a good captain is one who has won big events.”

Butt, it seems, feels that Kohli should be more like Kane Williamson. That feels like the journalist equivalent of “ball chasing” in the field. “Losing captain of a final should be more like the winning captain”. It’s really not rich in deep insight, is it?

“Virat Kohli has not won any ICC title, neither has he won the IPL. He is a top-class cricketer, has excellent body language and is aggressive. His energy level is at a different level, and it is evident that he wants to give his best every time he steps out in the middle. But captains should be subtle and not fiery,” the former opener added.

“We kept hearing during the WTC final, that it is a battle between fire (Virat Kohli) and ice (Kane Williamson). Most top-class captains who have won titles were cool or gesture-less at crunch moments. Virat Kohli is a man full of gestures. Had he won, he would have been praised no end.”

Factually, Salman Butt is correct. Virat Kohli has yet to win an ICC tournament and judging by the mood of some of our India supporting Guerilla Cricket followers, that is a frustration. However, it should not overshadow the fact that Kohli has transformed India and although no ICC trophies are to show for his effort, India has constantly made it to the knockouts of big events and are a formidable outfit in all formats. Kohli himself continues to promote Test cricket as the ultimate of those formats and much respect to him for that. He is also, by no means coincidentally, India’s most successful Test captain and overtook MS Dhoni’s record of 60 matches as captain in Southampton last week. Yes, he is yet to win an IPL as captain, but in the credit column, since the inception of the tournament in 2008, he is a one-club man. His loyalty to the RCB, despite their regular misfiring, is hugely commendable in this day and age.

Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion, thank goodness. To assess the credibility of Salman Butt’s claims lets also look at his comparative record with Kohli.

Virat Kohli's captaincy record versus Salman Butt's

So there, you have the facts. How you choose to interpret them, is, of course, up to you.