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Virat Kohli is a Great Player, but He Lacks “Leader’s Empathy”

Updated on September 20, 2018

Yet Again We Lost in England

If someone asked me to describe the recent two overseas losses in one word, then that word would be ‘disillusion.’ Generally, India is considered as weak when it comes to SENA countries. Over the time, many teams have traveled these countries and failed to make a significant impression. But in the current case, the expectations were high, and that was due to the trajectory that Indian cricket is on. In the past two decades, we have been growing in all aspects of cricket, whether it is fielding, batting or fast bowling. And comparatively, our growth is higher than most of the top teams. So naturally, we have the ambition to be the best. Most of us aspire to be on the same level as west indies of the 80’s or Australia of 2000. And one of the objective to reach there is to win overseas. Both of those team did that, and if we wish to be in that league, then we have to be good enough to do that. Unfortunately, looking at the recent two series. Things seem below the expectations. Although we are doing better than past, we still are way below the expectation, which is disappointing. Therefore Naturally, people are asking the why question?

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The Question of billion

Why are we failing?

The Usual Suspects

To be accurate, there is no one answer. If there were one, we would have found it. Some people say it’s the lack of preparation, others argue that the team is new and need more exposure, another and the more recognized reason is the rise of T20 and hence the erosion of batting skills in testing circumstances. Although I agree with most of them, I think there is a problem on the system level (team management system). I think the team management and hence the leader (captain Kohli) has failed to build a champion team. I called it the failure of “leader’s empathy”.

Great Dada and Cool MSD: Great Leaders with Empathy:

To understand this phenomenon, we need to understand ‘what are the tasks of the captain?’. Apart from on the ground task such as leading from the front, or making tactical decisions, a leader has to work behind the scene to build a team. Every great captain has built his or her own team. If we look at past two (great) captains, we notice how Ganguly build the team with youngsters like Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Zahir, Sehwag. Same goes for Dhoni, where he built his team with players like Ashwin, Jadeja, Raina. One crucial aspect of these team building was that the leaders had empathy toward their players. They (leaders) appreciated the players’ strengths, but more importantly, they acknowledged players’ weakness and their difficulty to overcome it. Let's take an example of Dhoni and Ashwin, Dhoni understood that Ashwin is not the most athletic and might never get to the level. So instead of pushing Ashwin for more athleticism, he developed Ashwin as a slip fielder. So in a way, he negated Ashvin’s weakness and amplified his strength. The same story happened with Raina, Jadeja, Sehwag, etc. Their captain appreciated their positives while concealing their negatives. This created the environment, where these players grew and become the legends they are.

What Do Great Leaders Do?

"My favorite captain was Sourav Ganguly. I learned a lot from him and my career flourished under him the most. He infused the feeling in us that we could win a series abroad." Yuvraj Singh

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Superhero Kohli vs Common Man

Unfortunately, when it comes to supernatural players (like Kohli), it difficult for them to have that empathy. It’s simple, most of these supernatural players overcome their personal problems and virtually never felt it difficult. Therefore it’s difficult for them to understand that the things that seem easy for them might be like Everest for other. We can look at some of the examples: how Messi fell as a leader or how Sachin fell as captain. I think the current team is also having a similar problem. Similar to the greats mentioned above, Kohli is an extraordinary player, practically he has overcome all the obstacles that come his way, and by looking at his past, we know that he will overcome any obstacle that will come in future.

Unfortunately, others can't do the same. Take the example of Pujara, by now we know that Pujara can’t be athletic like others or Rahane haven’t manage to become the player (like Kohli), who can win matches single-handedly. But in reaction to their failure, rather than understanding their problem and cultivating them with their flaws, the team management is looking for their replacement, where they are trying to find better players than above two (1st test in South Africa Rahane was dropped, 1st test in England Pujara was dropped). The story is not different for other players too. In last 20 odd test, the team is ever changing, which means that Kohli was not satisfied with his line-up. Every time a player could not overcome his problem, he was dropped. Apart from Kohli himself, no player was safe in the team (including vise captain). It didn’t matter who they were and what was their role. The only thing that mattered was whether they can overcome their problem (apart from Kohli few others could do that. the case and point Bumrah, who perform every time there was a question about him).


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At the system level, what it did is that the team was never build up, and therefore the team could not perform at their best. Imagine, how can you build a team when you have doubt about your number three (the backbone of batting order who was dropped in 1st game), the best overseas player (who was dropped for the 1st match on tour), and the best overseas opener (who was dropped after two difficult games). Then you also have doubts about the best spinner in the world. I am not saying that they should not have been dropped but with this kind of uncertainty, how can you build a team? And looking at the result, clearly, we can say that team management failed in it.

Can Kohali be a Great Leader?

If Kohli wants to win overseas, he needs to understand that he needs a well-built team. He needs to realize that all of the above players are the best that he has. No doubt they have limitations, and probably they will have them for their whole life, but any replacement of them probably will have other limitations. And if he continues on this streak in search of perfect players, the team will never be built up. He needs to choose his team and need to understand his teammates. He needs to cherish their qualities at the same time acknowledge their weakness. He needs to recognize that he will never find another Kohli (the great players) to replace Rahane, or Pujara. So he needs to stop his reach for best players and need to build a team with what he has. Maybe he can talk to Dhoni or Ganguly, ask for their advice and learn leader’s empathy. Remember, the captain is as good as the team.

Next Stop in Australia

What do you think?

Will he be able to have empathy with his teammates?

Will he be able to build a team before Australia?

Let's hope so.

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