All format captain of the Indian Cricket team, Virat Kohli yesterday announced that he will be leaving the T20 captaincy duties after the end of the marquee T20 World Cup scheduled to start in a month in UAE. Kohli shared a post where he mentioned that he will continue leading the Men in Blue in Test and ODI formats, while a new cricketer will take over as the T20I captain after the culmination of the quadrennial event.
Citing workload management as the reason, Kohli wrote, “Understanding workload is a very important thing and considering my immense workload over the last 8-9 years playing all 3 formats and captaining regularly for last 5-6 years, I feel I need to give myself space to be fully ready to lead the Indian Team in Test and ODI Cricket,”
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) September 16, 2021
Kohli wanting to dump Rohit?
However, ever since the announcement, several reports have started doing the rounds of media circles that paint a different reason for Kohli’s decision to step down. Reportedly, Kohli had suggested the BCCI selection committee to remove his deputy Rohit Sharma from his position of India’s white-ball vice-captain which did not go down well with the Board. The BCCI is currently being led by Sourav Ganguly who as a player and administrator is known for backing players and not throwing them under the wheel.
A BCCI insider in the know of things was quoted as saying by Cricket Addictor, “Virat knew that he would have been removed from white ball captaincy. If the team doesn’t do well at the UAE World T20, he was gone for good as far as white-ball leadership is concerned. He just reduced a bit of pressure on himself as it would seem that he is there on his own terms. It might not happen for 50 overs if the performance in T20 hits a downward spiral,”
Kohli’s out-of-the-blue decision to replace Rohit, one of the biggest white ballplayers India has ever produced certainly could have played a part in his eventual resignation. Moreover, the fact that news reports claiming that all is not well within the dressing room could have forced Ganguly to put down the foot.
According to former cricketers and sources in the BCCI, Kohli has not exactly enjoyed the full support of the dressing room. According to a PTI report, Kohli’s style of functioning, according to those who have watched him closely, borders on autocracy with very little room for inclusiveness.
Kohli is incommunicado to the players
One of the former cricketers was anonymously quoted by PTI as saying, “The problem with Virat is his communication. In case of MS (Dhoni), his room would be open 24×7 and players could just walk in, play the PS4, have a meal and let their hair down and if required talk cricket. Beyond the ground, Kohli is literally incommunicado,”
Whilst talking about Rohit Sharma, the source said, “Rohit has shades of MSD but in a different manner. He takes the junior players out for meals, gives them a friendly pat on the back when they are down and knows the mental aspects of a player’s make-up inside out.”
Use and throw policy of Kohli
The source talked about how Kohli, much like wanting to drop Rohit from vice-captaincy duties did not back players when they needed his confidence.
“Kuldeep Yadav, after a five-wicket haul in Australia, went downhill. Ditto for Rishabh Pant when he wasn’t in form. Umesh Yadav, a senior bowler, who is a workhorse on Indian pitches, never gets an answer on why he is not considered till someone gets injured? He speaks about communication at media conferences but this is the truth that he has hardly hand-held any player when they needed their captain the most,”
No ICC trophy in the cabinet
Despite inheriting a potent pace bowling attack that none of the previous captains like MS Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly had the luxury to the field, Kohli has failed to win any ICC trophy. There is no beating around the bush that Kohli still has a long way to go to crack the limited-overs format code. The empty cabinet across international as well as franchise cricket speaks volumes about his failure as a captain.
IPL and limited-overs captaincy record has already shown that if not better, Rohit is equally comparable to Kohli. In Kohli’s absence, Rohit Sharma took India to the Asia Cup and the Nidhas Trophy titles in 2018. He is also the most successful captain in IPL history, with 5 trophies on his shelf, compared to Kohli’s zilch.
It hasn’t helped Kohli’s cause that his batting that often redeemed his captaincy failures has not been exactly firing all cylinders for the better part of the last one and a half years.
MS Dhoni as a mentor to level Kohli’s flared tempers
Even while reading Kohli’s post yesterday, one did not find any self-assessment of his captaincy. The BCCI under Sourav Ganguly thus cleverly played the card and introduced MS Dhoni to the team as a mentor. With Dhoni around the dressing room, the flared tempers of Kohli that often lead to haphazard decisions will be nipped.
At the end of the day, a captain is defined by the number of silverware trophies he has in his cabinet, and so far, the men-in-blue have failed to lay their hand on any ICC trophy under Kohli’s reign. After the debacle of the World Test Championship, if the T20 trophy slips from Kohli’s hand, the clock might start ticking for him in the 50-over format as well. The time is now and BCCI under Sourav Ganguly needs to make tough calls. Making Rohit Sharma the captain being one of them.