By declaring that he would be stepping down as the T-20 captain after the World Championship, skipper Virat Kohli may have taken Indian cricket fans by surprise. However, the move appears to be in the overall interest of the game.
There is speculation that Kohli was forced to give up the captaincy of the 20-over format and is likely to be replaced by Rohit Sharma next month. And if the outcome of the championship does not go in India’s favour, he may have to resign even as the ODI skipper as well.
It is also being said that had Kohli scored one or two centuries during the England tour, the status quo would have been maintained. There has hardly been any pressure on him in T-20 since in the whole of last year, India figured in only eight T-20 games.
The question that arises is that should there be a separate captain for the white ball and red ball games. Both Australia and England have separate captains and it seems to be working for them. Therefore, if India too has different captains, it could very well be a game changer.
There is also a conjecture that the powerful West zone lobby may have eased Kohli out of the T-20 captaincy. Even if this was true, Rohit is a very capable and gifted cricketer who may not have won as many laurels as Kohli but is definitely world class.
The short point is that Virat Kohli is one of the best players of the game and needs no certificate from anyone to prove his credentials. His performance has been extraordinary and he would always be considered amongst the cricket greats of the game.
In the past, top cricketers have had to give up their captaincy to play under different captains in subsequent years. Sunil Gavaskar in my estimation has been the best batsman India has ever produced and notwithstanding the iconic status of Sachin Tendulkar, scored runs against the most ferocious Test bowlers of all times.
However, he had to give up the captaincy like Sachin had to do later. Even Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly and the inspirational Mahindra Singh Dhoni agreed to play under different captains. So far as Kohli is concerned, he has left his mark on the game and has taken Indian cricket to a different level altogether.
If India led the recent Test series, it was because the never-say-die spirit of Kohli was an intrinsic part of the side, which has youngsters who swear by his name. The fitness levels of this sport have never been as good as they are today and it is essentially because the captain is a workaholic who makes his entire team to sweat it out.
I am reminded of another legend, Vijay Merchant, whose casting vote in the selection committee had given the Indian captaincy to the late Ajit Wadekar 50 years ago. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was the front-runner, but Merchant gambled on Wadekar, who produced the results in his first series in the West Indies, where Sunil Gavaskar made his debut.
Merchant was considered a legend in his time and he suddenly decided to hang his bat. When people started wondering why he had done it, he smiled and said, “The time comes when people ask why and not why-not.”
In the case of Kohli, there are many more seasons he can play for the country and that too in all formats. He has the tenacity, talent and the concentration to compete with the best as according to his own admission, he and his team have learnt to outperform themselves in the most difficult situations.
The gifted cricketer from Delhi was always meant to do big things. The story is that when his father passed away, he was on the crease. However, instead of abandoning the game and reaching home, he remained on the field till the last ball was bowled before returning to perform his duties as a son. This illustrates his unflinching commitment towards the game he has loved.
There are many other ramifications of Kohli’s giving up on the captaincy. It perhaps implies that coach Ravi Shastri could also be under some sort of duress. Dhoni has already been appointed as the mentor of the T-20 team and it is likely that he may ultimately succeed Shastri.
A tussle for vice captaincy under Rohit Sharma could also ensue, with both K.L. Rahul and Hardik Pandeya being likely contenders. Indian cricket has a very robust bench strength, which is good for the game, but could lead to unnecessary politicking.
Ordinarily speaking, Kohli’s declaration on the captaincy of the shortest format should have been explained by the Board and the selectors. It was expected that after Sourav Ganguly, one of the finest captains India produced, was elevated as the Board president, transparency would become the normal thing.
If that has not happened, it is because there are a lot of vested interests that control the Board through remote mechanisms. The BCCI is amongst the richest boards anywhere in the world and has many power brokers wanting a stake in its functioning. It is not without a reason that influential politicians have tried to wrest control of this sports body.
Kohli’s rise in cricket is because of his dedication and hard work. His contribution has been second to none. He would be always regarded as a valuable asset to the game. Between us.