Leadership will be the thing that defines him and not the runs he scores, feels former India skipper Sourav Ganguly, who insists that Virat Kohli's legacy will be judged by where he leaves the team as a captain. In a chat with Harsha Bhogle on Cricbuzz Unplugged, Ganguly speaks about the players who excite him the most, Kohli's leadership, and the disparity between bat and ball in the current cricketing climes, among other things.
Players who excite you
It's a serious side. Virat Kohli - everybody is aware of him, but KL Rahul excites me. He's a seriously good player, a player who'll score runs everywhere, in all formats. He excites me and Kuldeep Yadav excites me. He's tremendous. Kuldeep has got the ability to win you Test matches overseas. I think that's important. I really want [Ajinkya] Rahane to do well because I feel he's a good cricketer. (He) just lost his place a bit and he needs the support. I see him being in and out, in and out, and this is where Virat Kohli's captaincy comes in. Identify his quality and support him for a while - four months, five months or six months, and bring him back on track.
What are you impressed with in Rahul?
The time that he has to play his shots, especially fast bowling. The knock he played (in the first T20I against England), it was outstanding. Even Rohit Sharma was batting at the other end, and I'm not comparing. Rohit has a remarkable record in the shorter formats of the game. Maybe it was one of those days where he was not being able to hit the gaps - it happens when you've played the game for a long period of time. But Rahul never looked out of place. He's shown the world. We've spoken about Kohli in the past, how to play Twenty20 cricket just playing normally.
When you see England bat, when you see a [Jos] Buttler playing the reverse flick, playing the lap shot and every other shot in the book, and then you see KL Rahul just stand and hit it over mid-off, short ball and he paddles it over square leg, complete cricketing shots. And hopefully, Indian cricket looks after him because you don't get such talent every day.
Virat Kohli's captaincy
He needs to have the eye of picking players, that's very important. There's no hard and fast rule to it. You just see a player and feel 'wow he can deliver for me' and you back him. Virat backs his players - it's a trend that has come over in Indian cricket. Maybe you can say it started from my time, [MS] Dhoni did it, Virat does it. It's just the eye for good players. I think he's passionate, he wants his team to do well like any other captain. And I see good things in Indian cricket. Yes, they'll have to win a Test series away from home, they'll have to play well in Test cricket - which is the biggest identification of the team.
There have been serious players in Indian cricket. I saw [Sunil] Gavaskar at his later part, I've seen [Rahul] Dravid, I've seen [Sachin] Tendulkar, I've seen [Virender] Sehwag, I've seen VVS Laxman, I've seen Anil Kumble captain them for a long period of time, Harbhajan Singh - they're serious players. 600 wickets, 400 wickets, 15,000 runs, there were serious players in that squad. He's (Kohli) is the player for this generation. And the important thing for him is to be patient.
Virat Kohli will not be judged just by the runs he scores. That'll remain, he will keep scoring runs till the time he plays because he's a very good player. But for me, Virat Kohli will be judged by how he takes Indian cricket with him. And that's very, very important. Hope he has the right people around him, to guide him and make sure that life becomes a little easy for him. Because it's going to get harder. With overseas trips, the longer he spends as captain, his form - up and down - so it's only going to get harder. So hopefully he has people around him who help him and guide him. And that will be his legacy - where he leaves Indian cricket as a captain.
To be honest, we did well overseas in '86, we didn't do well after that. We did well from 2000 to 2008 - my captaincy, Rahul's captaincy, Dhoni's trip to New Zealand - and then we dropped off. From 2009 to 2018, I don't think we should be proud enough to say that we've gone to England, we've gone to Australia, we've gone to South Africa and won Test series, we haven't. And I think he's trying to do something different. Get the boys fit, get the boys tough.
I see a change in Umesh Yadav, see his bowling. You have to have fast bowling to win away from home. That's a good landmark that he's set up, it's not the only landmark but it's important that you pass that. He's got the goals for his team, he works hard himself and I think he's on the right track. Only time will tell whether he finishes as a successful captain or not.
Has batting become easier in current times?
I feel the bowlers try too much these days. They do too many things, they don't keep it simple. I played against all the greats - Glenn McGrath, [Shaun] Pollock, Wasim [Akram], Waqar [Younis] [Allan] Donald, [Brett] Lee, [Jason] Gillespie - one came after the other. All what they did was bowl in the right areas. And I see too many things happening - slower bouncer, full-length delivery, short delivery, and you forget the length amidst all that. I think time has come, and it has happened before, it's life. Things which my father wore 25 years ago has become a fashion now. So I think cricket is also going through the same thing. They'll start realising that the best way to be good is to keep it simple and hit the right lengths. I see a serious change in bowling quality, and that's obviously allowed batsmen to dominate so much.
(With all the new shots and despite the variations) at the end of the day, they still get hit in those areas. You play a lap shot or you play a reverse sweep, the bowlers still get hit. So they might as well decide that 'okay, he still hits me. so what's my best solution? Not to worry about too many things that's going on, just bowl in the right areas, hit the length and make the ball do a bit'. The best way for a swing bowler to stop runs is to swing the ball. For a spinner, the best way to pick wickets is to spin the ball. So concentrate on simple things. Too much is happening in T20 cricket. What's Kuldeep done? He's just bowled slow, bowled in the right areas, and he's just bowled leg-spin and googly. Nothing much but he's one of the most successful bowlers in world cricket at the moment in the T20 format.
What about finger spinners like Ashwin?
You can't let him fade away so quickly because 300 wickets is not a matter of joke. We always feel - it's a common trend - that what's (who's) not playing is probably better. But it's not the case sometimes. I think Ashwin has a place in the side. He'll reinvent himself because he's being challenged, he's' felt there's competition in the squad, he knows that Kuldeep is up for his Test place. We saw the leg spin in the IPL and he will get better. But all must realise that 300 wickets don't come just like that. So he deserves a lot more opportunities.