Shelf lives of India captains are normally bookended by ICC events. For MS Dhoni, his captaincy began with the unexpected World Twenty20 win in 2007 but ended with heartbreak at the same event’s semi-final in Wankhede in 2016.
Like Dhoni, Virat Kohli’s shorter format captaincy too starts in the year of an ICC event — the Champions Trophy. The most successful team in this event alongside Australia, India will depend heavily on Kohli to play a pivotal role not only as captain but also as batsman to keep them on top.
His form and mental state indicate Kohli is ready to take 2017 by storm. Averaging 92.4 in his last 10 ODI innings, including three centuries, Kohli only needs to take off from where he had left before Diwali.
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In fact, the three ODIs against England this month will be the only dress rehearsal for the Champions Trophy as India are scheduled to play only Tests against Bangladesh and Australia after this. So getting a favourable result apart from improving his figures at home should top Kohli’s priorities.
The newly-appointed India captain anyway has had runaway success at home. In the 68 ODIs he has played at home since his debut in 2009, Kohli has scored 3410 runs at an average of 58.21 and a strike rate of 93.90.
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Scores in his last 10 ODIs at home read 65, 45, 154*, 9, 85*, 7, 138, 77, 12 and 11 so it’s clear that when he scores, he scores big. That trend shouldn’t abate this year as well. Then there is also the ICC rankings factor that could keep Kohli alert. Trailing top-ranked AB de Villiers by just 13 points, Kohli could use this ODI series against England as an opportunity to close in on his Royal Challengers Bangalore buddy.
Ruthless in attacking opponents, Kohli’s aggressive captaincy has reaped great results for India in Tests in 2016 and promises more against Bangladesh and Australia. But this year also comes with the added responsibility of leading the ODI and T20 teams apart from managing what Dhoni has to offer as a player.
The ODI series against England comes at a good juncture as it should allow Kohli time to warm up to his new task and adjust his zone as batsman. Once that’s done, Kohli would be eager to leave a mark early into his ODI captaincy, ideally by winning the Champions Trophy in June.