T20I Future Uncertain for Kohli and Rohit, but No One Will Say It Officially

Both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have been left out of India's T20I squad for the series against New Zealand.

6 min read
T20I Future Uncertain for Kohli and Rohit, but No One Will Say It Officially

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The clock strikes 10:15 pm on yet another Friday. When you least expect it, an email hits your inbox.

This time, once again from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Pray what’s the urgent matter at 10.15 pm? Well, it is just another routine announcement of squads for the upcoming New Zealand series and the first two Border Gavaskar Trophy Tests against Australia.

Again just an announcement, with no explanation or no quotes pointing out the rationale behind decisions. But then we stopped expecting that from the powers that be in Indian cricket long ago.

They don’t think it is necessary for the thinking behind choices or decisions made should be public knowledge. After all, who are we mere mortals to interfere with what sides they pick for themselves?

We are only minor stakeholders who ultimately drive huge bargains in television deals which gives everyone in Indian cricket an exalted status. Hence the delivery of information at 10:15pm without any explanation or reasoning that was made public, because no one stands up and asks.


Is ‘Hardik Pandya: The T20I Captain’ Here To Stay?

So, what do we work on? Assumptions or inferences from reading between the lines.

The latest being with regards to announcements around India’s T20I squads. For all practical purposes, Hardik Pandya is India’s full-time T20I captain with his own band of players. No official word was ever made on whether Pandya is here to stay as T20I captain or whether the specialists he backs are his choices. It was all in hushed tones and source-based information as always.

Hardik Pandya will continue in his role as the T20I captain in the upcoming series against New Zealand.

(Photo: BCCI)

When everyone got curious, what did they do? Waited for Rohit Sharma to be available for a press conference because there is no other way to find answers these days in Indian cricket. Sharma on his part when asked about his T20I future said very plainly that he has not given up on the format.


It is a face-saver for Sharma because there was never a full statement from the Board explaining the rationale behind the T20I announcements. So for all practical purposes, he is still very much in the T20I scheme of things and officially India’s all-format captain.

To make matters interesting days after announcing the squads for the Sri Lanka series, Sharma was part of the sham review meeting conducted by the Board, presumably as India’s all-format captain.

If Pandya was indeed the chosen one for T20Is, shouldn’t he have been part of the meeting as well? Again, we will never know because we don’t matter.

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma – In the Corridor of Uncertainty

Both Sharma and Virat Kohli are technically in the same boat right now when it comes to T20I cricket. India does not play enough T20I cricket in 2023, so it gives the selectors and everyone involved, the perfect opportunity to hide behind ‘workload management’ to justify their exclusion for now.

Indian cricket has done this for a long time and this is not the first time that we have had this situation with senior players in white ball cricket. The current head coach, Rahul Dravid, and former captain, Sourav Ganguly were similarly discarded from the ODI set-up back in 2007-08. But no one ever stepped forward and spelt it out explicitly. Everyone knew that their time was up, but everyone publicly expressed the view that the door is not shut on anyone.


Ganguly retired from all international cricket in 2008, but Dravid carried on in Test matches. He was recalled to the ODI squad in 2009 for a couple of tournaments and then discarded. Then again in the 2011 England tour, he was again recalled to the ODI squad, only to retire from it completely at the end of the series.

Kohli and Sharma have seen that part closely with Dravid as they were very much Young Turks lurking in the background when all this happened in front of them. In a way, history is repeating itself. We have two IPL seasons before the next T20 World Cup and if both the senior pros perform, there will be calls for them to be named in the squad.


Both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have not played a T20I game since last year's ICC Men's T20 World Cup.

(Photo: BCCI)

India are not like England or Australia, where once they break with the past, that’s the end of it. Ask Joe Root, if you have any doubts. The former England Test captain scores a bucketful of runs in the longest format but when it comes to the T20 format, he just cannot get in. In India, however, a similar performance would have seen strong calls for a comeback.

Kohli and Sharma are not wrong in not wanting to take a call on their T20I future because there is no reason for them to officially spell it out. The decision has to come from the Board that they will be open in matters related to selection. If they continue to play hide and seek by putting out standard one-liners, you will always find players also wanting to take the same route.


With Many Factors at Play, Walking Away Is Just Not a ‘India’ Thing

Besides, there is this unsaid thing about superstars – the moment the word 'retirement' is attached next to them, it starts telling about other aspects of their professional life as well. This is despite the fact that both Kohli and Sharma will be seen in action for nearly 300 days in a year across formats. India is a curious market and you do not want to upset the apple cart by being the first one to do so.

Only two secure Indians in recent times have taken the unprecedented step of wilfully stepping away from a format. Anil Kumble retired from ODIs in 2007 and played only Tests, while MS Dhoni retired from Tests to focus solitarily on white-ball cricket. In both cases, it did not affect their overall brand value. Sachin Tendulkar retired from ODIs late in 2012, only when he was asked to, and later in 2013 quit Tests as well.

Retiring from a particular format is not particularly a common occurrence in India.

(Photo: BCCI)


Indian cricket does not have stories or precedents of secure senior cricketers choosing a format one way or the other.

In India, we know what is happening, what should happen and what will happen but we choose to remain quiet about it. We are a courteous and well-behaved lot, you see, we don’t like to ruffle feathers.

For all practical purposes, everyone knows that Bhuvneshwar Kumar was only being considered for T20Is while Shikhar Dhawan was only for ODIs. But the moment news broke that Kumar will give up Tests, he went on the front foot denying the information.

We love pretending that something has not happened and tend to believe that we have successfully managed to convince everyone that this is the reality, when in fact it is not. This will likely continue for the time to come, because there is no Ben Stokes in Indian cricket who will take a call at his peak to officially quit a format for fear of missing out on something.

Until that Stokes arrives, we just keep waiting for the next email to arrive at 10:15pm.

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