Virat Kohli has changed the culture of the Indian cricket team for vanguard sports . The last captain to do so, Tiger Pataudi, infused self-confidence into a team of talented but diffident individuals.
That self-respect movement endorsed the cliché: India as a team of magical spinners and risk-taking batsmen.
In their first series win in Australia under Kohli, India showed themselves to be a team of good fast bowlers and in Cheteshwar Pujara had a batsman willing to grind it out.
For generations, looking pretty and playing pretty was the Indian way. Kohli has changed that.
To use a phrase the tennis coach, Brad Gilbert, popularised, “winning ugly” was crucial if losing pretty was the alternative. Pujara seemed to be a product of this new culture .
His three centuries in Australia earned him the Man of the Series award. He batted for over 28 hours over the four Tests, playing 1,258 deliveries, more than any other Indian in a series there.
It is possible that Kohli has a greater influence on this Indian team than any of his predecessors had on theirs.
The emphasis on physical fitness – inspired by the captain’s regimen – is understandable. But it extends to similarities in the manner of wearing facial hair too. A strong captain builds a team in his image – in India’s case this is literally true.
But Kohli’s greatest impact has been on the mindset of his players.India have had aggressive players in the past, many who gave as good as they got, others who initiated on-field aggression.