India vs New Zealand: A battle of fire and ice as Virat Kohli’s India up against Williamson’s nice guys


The upcoming 2-Test series between India and New Zealand couldn’t have arrived at an interesting time for the two respective captains – Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. While Virat Kohli is leading a team that is currently ranked No.1 in the world and also in the World Test Championship points table, Williamson’s side are trying to leave overcome the disappointment of a recent 3-0 thrashing in Australia. With both India and New Zealand expected to slug it out in whites over the next fortnight or so, Kohli and Williamson will need to be at the top of their captaincy game in order to win the series.

As far as captaincy styles are concerned, there could not be 2 more different captains in the world than Kohli and Williamson. The India captain’s in-your-face leadership style lies in stark contrast to his Kiwi counterpart’s ice-cool attitude while marshalling his troops on the field.

Virat Kohli’s captaincy, like his batting, is instinctive, though it has evolved over his 6 years of tenure. He is always looking to leave an impact on the game and expects the same standards from his teammates too. Punching the air, covering his face after missed chances or shouting at his bowlers after a full-toss, Kohli goes through all these emotions while leading on the field.

Doesn’t matter when you start following a match involving Kohli but a cursory look at his face at any point during the game is sure to provide you with a decent idea of how it is poised. Kohli’s incessant craving for fitness has made the current Indian team arguably the fittest in their history. But there is also a flip-side to all this aggression.

A captain is best judged by his demeanour when things around him are falling apart. This is where Kohli has been found out at times in the past. Be it the 2017 Champions Trophy mauling at the hands of Pakistan or Sam Curran’s multiple rearguards on the 2018 England tour, Kohli as captain has been found wanting when the times have been desperate. After all, there is a limit to what aggression can achieve on its own. And that’s where Kane Williamson scores above his Indian counterpart.

Williamson is truly the cricket lover’s delight. If Spirit of Cricket was a person, it is hard to imagine it resembling anyone else in the modern game than the New Zealand captain. If his stoicism after the heartbreaking loss in the 2019 World Cup final melted the iciest of hearts, Williamson’s in-person ‘thank you’ to the Kiwi fans after a painful Test series loss in Melbourne last year spoke volumes about his composed nature.

Crowd-pleasing aside, Williamson has continued to honour the ‘humble and hardworking’ mantra of his predecessor Brendon McCullum while taking it to another level. Williamson’s success as a good Test captain lies in the fact that he has been able to walk the fine line between his team being perceived as the ‘nice guys’ and a really good Test side.

Under Williamson, New Zealand have been a tough side to beat at home, losing just a single Test in his more than 4 years captaincy tenure. Away from home, New Zealand have consistently been punching above their weight with the historic 2-1 series win in UAE vs Pakistan in 2018 being the team’s zenith so far under Williamson. Since then, New Zealand have also managed to draw a Test series in Sri Lanka but the 3-0 loss in Australia must be surely hurting the Kiwis.

Kohli vs Williamson: What do the stats say?

There is little to choose between the two when it comes to their overall Test captaincy record. While Kohli has won 33 out of 53 Tests with 10 defeats, Williamson has managed 16 wins in 30 Tests with 8 losses to his credit. This makes Williamson’s win-loss ratio (2.0) 2nd-best after Kohli (3.3) amongst all present Test captains in the world. Both captains have also been quite successful in their own backyard losing only a single Test each at home since taking over the captaincy.

While Kohli’s India captaincy is under no threat whatsoever at the moment, Williamson doesn’t quite have that luxury after the Australia tour. The upcoming series vs India is a chance for Williamson to win over his detractors who have been gunning for his head since the 3-0 whitewash. A win against the No.1 ranked Test team should give Kane Williamson and New Zealand fans plenty to cheer about. On Williamson’s part, he has remained cool and calm as always and has welcomed the criticism surrounding him.

“For me, it’s always been about what’s best for the team. If those discussions [about captaincy changes] are to eventuate and collectively there’s a thought that it would be best for the team, then my stance is whatever is right and fits the group,” Williamson had said after the Australia tour.

Even Kohli had backed Williamson for the captaincy saying: “I don’t think leadership can always be determined by the results. It’s also about how you can get the team together and get the guys functioning under you as well, which I think Kane has done wonderfully well.”

For Kohli, this will be a chance to become only the 3rd Indian captain to win a Test series in New Zealand. Kohli has the templates of 2 finest India captains MAK Pataudi and MS Dhoni to follow but it certainly won’t be easy against the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner. The series defeats in South Africa and England must still be hurting India and the New Zealand series provides them with a chance to continue the momentum they gained by winning in Australia last year barring which murmurs of India being poor travellers will again start to resurface. Kohli and Ravi Shastri would certainly hate that after having assumed the title of ‘best travellers’ themselves.

So whether it’s the fiery Kohli or the ice-cool Williamson, the upcoming series has a lot at stake for both the captains. 12 years after leading their respective sides in the U 19 World Cup Kohli and Williamson again find themselves at loggerheads with their leadership qualities at stake. Can Kohli spur on his troops to a historic series victory or will he be trumped by the unshakeable Williamson? The next few days will tell us who will blink first.




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