As India beat New Zealand by 178 runs in the Kolkata Test, Virat Kohli walked off with a stump in hand, marking the figure "1" on his hand. He was talking to the crowd, telling them that the team had done it. They were now No. 1 again in the ICC rankings, getting there properly this time around on the basis of scintillating back-to-back wins.
It has been a long talked-up aim of this young team, and they had set the end of this 13-Test long season to achieve the goal. But they have done it already, and will be keen not to step off the gas pedal in Indore. After all, with success comes the urge to strive for consistency, and anything less will be unacceptable from Indore onwards.
Virat Kohli’s ebullience
There is something about Kohli. The passion that he brings to the cricket field is unparalleled. Throughout this match, whether batting or marshalling his troops, he was in the face of not the opposition, but of the umpires. There was constant chatter, about going off owing to the wet outfield or bad light, and about changing of balls, continuous appealing or even wrong decisions, and running on the pitch.
On Monday, he was busy raising the crowd’s temperature. Eden Gardens might have looked empty for most part of this match, but there were still enough people present to allow for some raucous shouting. Feeding off this energy, Mohammed Shami ran though the New Zealand middle order.
“It just creates an energy that we experience when we go to Australia, when we go to England, South Africa. They get a couple of wicket, the crowd gets loud behind, really loud and as a batsman you understand that it creates a lot of pressure, you feel nervous,” said the skipper.
When was the last time an Indian captain borrowed from the crowd in this fashion? MS Dhoni rarely showed his emotional side, nor did Anil Kumble. Rahul Dravid was the wall, be it with the bat or the captaincy hat. Maybe Sourav Ganguly, but the last time he led was in the mid-2000s. The ones before him probably never even knew such energy existed.
It has almost been a decade since we have seen a raw display of emotion and aggression on the field, and it's currently doing wonders for Indian cricket. With this win in Kolkata, that’s a run of 12 unbeaten Tests for Kohli and his team.
New Zealand missed Kane Williamson
It is a wonder what the Kiwis missed more from Williamson: his leadership or his batting ability, for the visitors looked a different side from Kanpur. In the first Test, they had pushed India until the very last day. There were fight-backs from the top and middle order, and Williamson stitched the two. It was missing in Kolkata though, as two collapses in two innings obliterated any hopes of competing in this match.
Perhaps it was his batting then, for this wasn’t a pitch that assisted the spinners too much. It was surprising that they didn’t cope with the two Indian pacers well enough, and surrendered 12 wickets to them in this Test. The New Zealand batsmen were so occupied with holding off the spinners that they didn’t see the other threat materialise.
They did miss Kane the captain too, though. As important a member of the team as he is, Ross Taylor just doesn’t exude enough presence to pull everyone in a unified direction. It was the reason New Zealand didn’t become a force during his tenure as skipper, while Brendon McCullum inspired practically the same group of players.
Williamson is in that mould, even if he has a different personality from McCullum's. He has the ability to hold the batting together, of course, but he brings in a shrewd mind that can strangle the opposition. There were two instances when the Kiwis let go of the match, and both involved a collapsing Indian batting.
Especially so in the second innings, when Matt Henry and Trent Boult had the Indian batting line-up by the scruff of its neck. The hosts were looking like they wouldn't even manage to set a target of 200, and yet they finished with one of 376. Taylor’s senile leadership let go off that stranglehold, the single biggest turning point of this Test.
BCCI vs Lodha vs Pakistan
As India tightened their hold on the match, thanks to another half century from Wriddhiman Saha, BCCI president Anurag Thakur walked into the press box. Whenever and wherever he is present, it is an opportunity for some frank talking. Given the current quagmire the board is in, it was obvious that he would talk. And talk he did!
He spoke about the DRS – that the BCCI is slowly moving towards accepting the review system, and that suggestions from Anil Kumble and Virat Kohli will be vital in this regard. He spoke about the various aspects of the Special General Meeting that adopted a few recommendations of the Lodha Panel, but rejected the big-change ones. He spoke about how tough it is for the BCCI bigwigs to agree to a cooling off period, and that some of the recommendations defy logic.
And then he spoke about cricket with Pakistan. Thakur had issued a statement asking the ICC not to place the two countries in the same group at any ICC event, for India don’t want to play cricket with its neighbour under the current political situation. It raised the question of knockouts, and he cleverly refused to answer. Instead, he raised an issue in light of Lodha recommendations, wherein a 15-day gap is necessary before and after every IPL season.
As things stand, the BCCI will have to choose between the IPL and the 2017 Champions Trophy. So, the India-Pakistan question doesn’t arise. Cleverly enough, Thakur dragged the ICC into l'affaire Lodha, for they will be worried about loss of income, something that had been avoided until now. It is now wait and watch.