Bishan Singh Bedi interview: Virat Kohli hasn't been tested as a captain yet, says Indian spin legend

In a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, Indian spin legend Bishan Singh Bedi talks about Virat Kohli's captaincy, India's recent performances in South Africa and more.

Amit Banerjee, March 08, 2018

There is little doubt over Virat Kohli's credentials as a batsman. The fact that he is among the best of this generation can be ascertained from the consistency at which he gets the big scores and finishes games for his team.

Kohli has been growing as a leader and has been pulling off one feat after another in the role, whether it's the team's domination at home regardless of the opposition, or the recent toppling of South Africa in the limited-overs fixtures in their backyard. A lot of credit for his development as a captain goes to the on-field presence of the 2011 World Cup-winning skipper MS Dhoni.

However, if the words of another former India captain are to be believed, then the Delhi lad still has some distance to go as far as achieving greatness as a leader is concerned.

"Let me be very honest. He is leading from the front as a batsman. Team is showing results.

"You talk about Steve Waugh, you talk about Michael Brearley. (They were) real thinkers of the game. He is yet to leave that impact. I want him to show that. He has not been tested yet," Indian spin legend Bishan Singh Bedi was quoted as saying in an interaction with Firstpost in New Delhi ahead of an event held in memory of the late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

Bishan Singh Bedi played 67 Tests for India, finishing with a tally of 266 wickets. Reuters

Bishan Singh Bedi played 67 Tests for India, finishing with a tally of 266 wickets. Reuters

Kohli is currently among the most successful captains in Indian cricket, having already notched up 21 victories in the longest format since being handed the reins after Dhoni's sudden Test retirement in December 2014. The latest of those victories was in the third Test against South Africa at Johannesburg, which then inspired India to the extent that they went on to hammer the Proteas in the ODIs and the T20Is.

Bedi, who was part of the famous Indian spin quartet in the 1960s and 1970s, however did not for once question the batting prowess of the man who has already racked up 56 international centuries in a decade.

"Kohli is phenomenal with his consistency. What I admire more about him is his intensity. He is very intense. He is frighteningly intense," added Bedi.

Among the key takeaways from the South Africa tour was the dominance of the Indian wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. The two got their break after the Champions Trophy, in which neither Ravichandran Ashwin nor Ravindra Jadeja could make much of an impact, and their exploits overseas have only boosted their chances of getting more game time in coloured clothing.

Bedi, however, cautioned against overselling them at such an early phase of their careers already.

"Let's not jump to conclusions. But they are very promising. Kuldeep particularly, I'm very fond of him. But this is novelty that has to be nurtured properly."

The veteran though lavished praise on the pace attack, which made good use of the fast and bouncy South African pitches to run through the opposition batting lineup in the Test series, and now look in good stead ahead of the English and Australian summers.

"Pace is looking a lot more fire (sic). I hope they stay fit for English tour. And they stay fit for the Australian tour. I won't say settled as yet, because the South African tour was a very brief tour.

"England is long. Five Test matches. And Australia is four Test matches. Plus they will have exhausted a fair amount of their energies in the IPL," added Bedi, who once famously threatened to dump the entire Indian team in the sea for poor performances while serving as the head coach.

The gruelling South African tour saw sparks flying in the interactions between captain Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri on one side, and the press on the other. After returning to India, Shastri was quoted as saying, "sometimes you feel in your country, people are happy when you lose," according to report on Mid-Day.

Bedi however, sounded a little baffled when asked to weigh in his thoughts on the issue.

"Why would anybody be happy if India loses. I haven't read it, but I find it not very conducive," said the veteran of 67 Tests, who added that the cricketer-press relations in his era was quite positive, one that was devoid of the "paparazzi" culture that is prevalent today.

The Indian team currently is in Sri Lanka, where they are participating in the T20I triangular series for the Nidahas Trophy that features Bangladesh as the third team.

Among the many talking points ahead of the series, which started off with hosts beating the 'Men in Blue' by five wickets on Tuesday, was the overdose of India-Sri Lanka encounters, to the point that is it starting to become absurd, and has become the butt of jokes on social media.

"What are we getting out of Sri Lanka? We beat them in their backyard, as well as on our soil, and now we are once again in the island nation to play cricket. They could've easily played domestic cricket (instead)," questioned Bedi, adding that senior Indian cricketers should participate in the Ranji Trophy more often instead of participating in tournaments that were devoid of context.

The Bishan Bedi Cricket Coaching Trust, which turns 25 this year, hosted an event in the national capital on Wednesday in memory of Tiger Pataudi, who was among the most successful captains to have emerged from this country with nine victories. The event was attended by the Pataudi family, as well as a host of bigwigs from the world of cricket and Bollywood.

Bedi, who played under Pataudi in 22 out of the 67 Tests that he appeared in, offered glowing tributes to his former captain.

"He brought about the Indianness in the Indian dressing room. The togetherness, that you are not Punjab, Madras or Maratha. We play for India. Think India. That is something that's etched in my memory.

"We hadn't heard about previous teams. That they had such an atmosphere (in the dressing room). But when this atmosphere was created (during Pataudi's time), then it made itself evident to everyone," said Bedi.

Published Date: March 08, 2018 | Updated Date: March 08, 2018

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5313 121
2 South Africa 4484 115
3 Australia 4174 104
4 New Zealand 3489 100
5 England 4829 99
6 Sri Lanka 4374 95
Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 7594 122
2 South Africa 6911 117
3 England 7102 116
4 New Zealand 6782 115
5 Australia 6376 112
6 Pakistan 4877 96
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 3272 126
2 Australia 2513 126
3 India 3940 119
4 New Zealand 3013 116
5 West Indies 2538 115
6 England 2402 114