Tim Paine (right) and Virat Kohli hold the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Picture: Sarah Reed
Tim Paine (right) and Virat Kohli hold the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Picture: Sarah Reed

Why Kohli is the ruler of world cricket

They are, as cricket power couples go, a study in opposites. Langer and Paine v Shastri and Kohli.

Justin Langer is the most powerful Australian coach since Bob Simpson. And Simpson was unique in his power and place in the modern game.

Ravi Shastri, on the other hand, has ceded much of his control to the most powerful man in world cricket, captain Virat Kohli.

The young bull has been given his head and the old bull is enjoying the results.

They could be father and son, both alpha males, aggressive, confident, the personification of a new India.

The coach had more power last time they were here, but there's been a shift since.

A brief period with Anil Kumble in charge did not turn out because the spinner from Bengaluru tried to steer the skipper.

Kohli didn't like being told what to do and Kumble, an old school southern Indian, wasn't comfortable with the things that Kohli would do.

The dressing room wasn't big enough for the both of them and the captain was not for the shifting.

Shastri and Kohli however have found a way. It helps that they sing with a similar voice. Urge with an equivalent urgency.

 

Indian captain Virat Kohli has an excellent relationship with coach Ravi Shastri. Picture: AAP
Indian captain Virat Kohli has an excellent relationship with coach Ravi Shastri. Picture: AAP

 

 

Recently Kohli claimed that nobody says "no" to him more than Shastri.

It is, you suspect, a harmless fiction. A lip service acknowledgment of the senior.

Some have joked that it's true, but the "no" is a response to question of the order: "Do you need my input in selection?"

Shastri was a man ahead of his time. Kohli is a man of his time. Sometimes angry, always uncompromising, totally committed to modern cricket.

At home in all its elements.

Consider that he is a batsman whose averages 50 or thereabouts in all three forms. Tests: 54.57. ODI: 59.83. T20: 49.25.

It's extraordinary consistency. He is ranked the No.1 batsman in Tests and ODIs.

He's on a mission in Australia. He's gonna make like Adani. Dig our coal and get us to pay while he does. Leave us with a gaping hole in the ground and a poison well but, hey, he'll keep a few of our bowlers in a job while he's doing it.

Kohli has a fame that has only been matched by Sachin Tendulkar, but an approach that could not be more different.

Tendulkar walked quietly but carried a big stick. Polite, quiet, an attendee of temples and an attendant of the great Indian cricket traditions.

Kohli roars and rages. Supremely confident, married to one of Bollywood's biggest stars, he may not be brash off the field or away from the spotlight, but he is supremely confident in it.

Paine's is a different lot. A different world. He lives a quiet life with two small children in the backstreets of Hobart, a world away from the gilded palaces where India's prince passes his down days.

He is not in the ODI or T20 teams.

A year ago he was searching employment at a sports good manufacturer where he would be paid in a year what Kohli earns in a week. If that.

He wasn't keeping for Tasmania, he'd been offered a one-year contract and his career appeared to have passed him by.

Australian skipper Tim Paine with coach Justin Langer. Picture: Getty Images
Australian skipper Tim Paine with coach Justin Langer. Picture: Getty Images
 

He'd threatened to make it a decade prior, but been denied by injury, anxiety and opportunity.

Basically, he's just happy to be here. Playing in The Ashes was a bonus, captaining his country borders on the unfathomable.

This is his first game at home as a captain. He moved into the bombed house after the Cape Town Test and did what could be done in the last game of that series.

He headed off to the UK for the ODI series against England and was in charge for the two matches against Pakistan in the UAE.

In none of those outings was there a win and you might argue that a way to play is only just beginning to emerge.

On Wednesday he sat down with Ricky Ponting behind the stands and the two Tasmanians recorded an interview for television.

 

 

Ponting had some tough times in the twilight of his career as captain and player, but nothing like Paine.

"We went through the names of Australian Test captains over the years," Paine said.

"It is a little bit daunting to be in a bracket with some of those guys. At the same time I'm trying to keep it as simple as I can, I'm trying to be myself and do my job which is first and foremost to wicket keep and bat.

"I'm hugely honoured to be captain of Australia but I am not letting it weigh me down too much."

If Paine acknowledged the weight he'd be flattened, but expectations have been tempered and the weight is carried equally by Langer.

If Kohli acknowledged the opportunity at hand he'd be giddy, but he's too smart for that.