Ind vs Aus: Apt time for Virat Kohli to replace Dhoni, says Ian Chappell
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has passed his use-by-date as a Test captain and this seems the perfect time to enact the change over, writes former Australian captain
Adelaide: The Adelaide Oval may look brand new after a major face-lift but the ground provided a sharp reminder of a very old cricketing axiom; leadership counts.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
First Michael Clarke, with a gritty knock full of mental courage, scored a century dedicated to his fallen comrade Phil Hughes but also containing a simple reminder to his teammates that we're in this together. It was also a continuation of a theme he's espoused from Day One of his captaincy reign; strong leaders are buoyed by the extra responsibility.
Then Virat Kohli, standby captain but potential full-time leader, countered with an innings littered with physical courage, after receiving a fearful blow to the head and producing a glittering array of shots.
Kohli's innings issued a strong challenge to his own team and sent a simple but forceful message to his opponents; we will not be brushed aside as easily as the last time we were in Australia.
Kohli had spoken of the enormous challenge facing India in the lead up to the first Test and how the team was ready. That was the easy part — speaking the words — what followed was the hard part; living up to the rhetoric on the field.
He played the part perfectly, leading from the front and dragging his young charges with him. If Brian Lara christened his daughter Sydney after the site of his first Test century, then Kohli has multiple reasons to name any female off-spring he produces, Adelaide.
The playing success of the two captains in the Adelaide Test has raised questions about the immediate leadership direction of both teams, especially with the latest injury to Clarke.
The selectors now have to decide whether to appoint a short-term replacement captain in Brad Haddin or, with both Steve Smith and David Warner in supreme form, do they expose their plans for the future?
The on-field altercations that occurred on a fiery fourth day, as both teams battled for supremacy, may have further clouded those issues for the selectors.
In the case of Warner, his taunting of fast bowler Varun Aaron may have convinced selectors that he's just too much of a ticking time bomb to risk with the captaincy. Smith must now be clear favourite for the captaincy if Clarke is going to be missing in action for any length of time.
In India's case, Kohli's performance over three and a half days must have tempted the selectors into thinking now is the right time to elevate him to full-time Test captaincy. There's no doubt that MS Dhoni has passed his use-by-date as a Test captain and this seems the perfect time to enact the change over.
Then the one issue that has always clouded the future of Kohli as a captain, raised its ugly head; his emotions got the better of him as a second on-field altercation erupted.
Calm before storm
Whereas in the first outbreak of hostilities Kohli remained calm and acted wisely in soothing some of his agitated teammates, this time his frustration boiled over. He inflamed a debate that started with Rohit Sharma querying Smith's method of kicking his off-spinners and then refused to be placated by the umpires' attempts to get the game back onto an even keel.
This is a young Indian side, full of potential and the desire to establish it's competitive credentials. As a player, Kohli has indicated he'll be buoyed by the leadership duties, not weighed down by responsibility.
However, his petulance on day four raised doubts about his ability to provide the calm, thoughtful presence that could mould the team's potential into a combative winner.
The generally peaceful surroundings of Adelaide Oval also provided another strong reminder for cricket's officials. If they continue to allow the on-field chatter to escalate, the verbal altercations will eventually turn into something far more ugly.