Monaco: There is no debating the class of Virat Kohli, the batsman. But the facet of Kohli's cricket which sometimes divides opinion has been his aggressive brand of captaincy. His combative, and at times confrontational, style of leading the national team is a little too in-your-face for some — why, it was only last month when South Africa's Graeme Smith had wondered aloud whether Kohli was a long-term captaincy option for India.
Steve Waugh has no such doubts about the Indian's ability to lead.
"Virat is leading very well right now, he has that charisma and that X-factor. That's why the rest of the team follows him. He wants the team to play positively all the time. They have got a very good win record in the last couple of years in all forms of the game. Virat has high aspirations from his team. He wants to be No 1 across all formats which is difficult to do these days," Waugh told a select bunch of Indian journalists at the sidelines of the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco.
Waugh, who is an ambassador for Laureus, was instrumental in moulding Australia into one of the greatest cricket teams of all times as the captain.
The Australian, however, does not seem to a big fan of Kohli's displays of emotion on the field.
"As a captain, he is still developing and needs some time to rope in his excitement and emotions. But that’s the way he plays. I think he just needs to get a bit of awareness that everyone in the side cannot play in that fashion. Someone like (Ajinkya) Rahane and (Cheteshwar) Pujara are very calm and quiet guys, so he needs to just understand that some players are different as well.
"At times, he probably needs to tone it down and at times he needs to lift it. So he needs to work out what’s right. He needs to strike a balance. I have seen him in South Africa and I feel that he was little over the top. That’s a learning thing for a captain.”
One thing that did impress Waugh on India's series of South Africa was the way they came back after losing the first two Tests.
"India are a very good side, no doubt about that. Kohli is an inspiration, he wants to win away from home but that didn’t quite work out in the first two Tests. They came across a pretty good South African side on difficult conditions for batting. But they came back in the third Test which was a good sign for India. They are a very competitive side, they cover all positions well. So I think India, South Africa and Australia are right now three sides who are very similar in quality and they will fight it out for the No 1 position in the next couple of years."
Pitch perfect for India
Having impressed in South Africa, Kohli and Co will face their next big challenge when they travel to England between July and September, a period which will see them play five Tests, three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is).
They will also fly to Australia to play four Tests, three T20Is and three ODIs in November-December.
"Australia will be favourites in Australia because we have got such a great record there, just like India in India. Virat would obviously be the key in Australia, having played amazing in Australia last time. They are a very confident young side and they are playing with great confidence and passion that their captain believes in. And they no doubt believe they can win in Australia. To be fair, the pitches will suit India more than the past because the pitches are very benign at the moment. So they will definitely suit the Indian batsmen and the spinners will come into action more. So I think it would be a very competitive series," Waugh predicted.
The sub-plot during India's tour of Australia which promises to be as riveting as the series itself, will be the tussle for personal supremacy between Kohli and Australia captain Steve Smith, who is also touted among the world's best batsmen and is one of the top captains in the world at the moment.
"They both are very aggressive captains. Smith is a lot more controlled in his emotions. Having said that, he gets wound up as well at times. I have seen Smith and Kohli clashing at times on the field. So in a lot of ways, there are pretty similar. They are passionate, they lead from the front, they want to score most runs, they want to be the man of the match and they want to be in the centre of attention, which is great.
"I think Virat will be very keen to have better series this time around because Smith dominated him the last time in India although India won the series," Waugh predicted.
The writer's trip was sponsored by Laureus