India in South Africa

Graeme Smith is not sure whether Virat Kohli is a long-term captaincy option for India

The former SA skipper feels the 29-year-old would benefit from someone in the support staff challenging him constructively.

Former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith believes that Virat Kohli lacks the maturity required for a leader to raise the overall level of his team and wondered whether he was a long term captaincy option or Indian needed to groom a new leader, ESPNcricinfo reported.

Kohli’s leadership skills have come under the scanner in the first major test of his captaincy stint not just because India lost both the Test matches against South Africa but for the ways he has been reacting to situation and even confronting anyone who questions his choices.

He has already been fined for bad conduct on the third day of the second Test and has been seen losing his cool even on fellow players.

“I don’t know, when I look at him, if he is a long-term captaincy option for India,” Smith said at a breakfast event organised by South African television network SuperSport. Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar and Zimbabwe fast bowler Pommie Mbangwa were the other panellists.

“At the end of this year, he’d have been away from home for a while, the pressure he’ll face, the scrutiny from the press - I know he only gets that in India - but if you’re away from home and you’re struggling for form as a team, I don’t know if I’d want to burden Virat Kohli with that... Or if India have a better leader in that environment,” Smith added.

“As a leader you need to understand the whole environment, talk to the players to try to get the best out of the environment. He might grow as he learns to soften that a little bit. His performances speak for themselves, it’s about whether he can get the best out of those around him when they are under pressure,” said the 36-year-old, who led South Africa in 108 Tests and 149 One-Day internationals.

Kohli, who has led India in 34 Tests so far, has not fielded the same XI in two consecutive Tests and many experts have been critical of his methods, feeling it was time the 29-year-old finds his best combination.

“We all know he’s an outstanding player, his intensity really benefits his own personal game, he loves that confrontation, that intensity brings the best out of him,” Smith said. “Sometimes as a leader you’ve got to consider how you impact the others in the environment, that’s an area of his leadership that he needs to grow. You can see, he’s often at his players. He’s very aware, he’s focus on the game is on, sweeping or mid-on.

“[But] often his reaction to situations... I think that can sometimes impact on your team negatively,” he added.

Gavaskar was not as critical as Smith but felt that Kohli needed to connect better with his team-mates and that could help him raise the level of the Indian team. “You might have some players who don’t have the same understanding of the game, or the same fierce desire, but sometimes you have to bring yourself down to a completely different level.

“Down, not up. Because that is the only way you are going to get the others who are down up to a level that you want to be. By making them understand that this is not the level where you’ll be doing well yourself, but rather where you are going to do well for the team to win,” he added.

Smith felt that it would help Kohli if there was someone in the support staff who can constructively challenge him.

“He has all the capabilities tactically, he knows his own game, he sets the standard in the field for everyone else.

“I think if he had a really constructive person in his environment, who could talk to him, make him think, maybe even challenge him with some different ideas, in a constructive way, not an angry or aggressive way, but make him think, open his eyes to other possibilities, that would make him a really good leader.”

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