Did Dressing Room Dynamics and Pressure Take a Toll on Virat Kohli?
Virat Kohli announced on Thursday that he will step down from T20I captaincy after the World Cup in UAE and Oman.
Virat Kohli, on Thursday, 16 September, announced his decision to quit as India's T20 captain after the upcoming World Cup, citing workload and hinting at self-preservation. Kohli as of now will remain the captain of the Indian men’s team in Tests and ODIs, but whether he will be leading the team at the 2023 ODI World Cup in India is another matter.
"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," a BCCI source was quoted as saying by PTI.
"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," he said.
A trophy-less T20 World Cup and Kohli might just have to play as a pure batsman in the 50-over format too.
There are no marks for guessing that even in the dressing room, Kohli's deputy Rohit Sharma is considered as a "leader", who has effectively learnt to take a young troop along, having done that year after year for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
It is one of the worst kept secrets in Indian cricket that Kohli, for some time, has not really enjoyed the full backing of the dressing room. Kohli’s style of working, as per the reports, borders on autocracy with very little room for inclusiveness.
His style of leadership and selection has often come under the scanner as various experts have raised questions and concerns.
Whether it is about playing two spinners in the World Test Championship final at Southampton or not letting any player settle down at the No. 4 position before the 2019 World Cup, his lack of flexibility has often been spoken about in hushed tones.
In more recent games, the absence of R Ashwin in the four Tests against England has been notable.
He did enjoy supreme authority before the Adelaide Test against Australia earlier this year. But the 36 all-out and his subsequent paternity break changed a lot of things.
Another problem that has been cited with the Kohli method of leadership is the lack of communication.
"The problem with Virat is his communication. In case of MS (Dhoni), his room would be open 24x7 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," a former India player, who has seen Kohli's early days of captaincy, was quoted as saying by PTI.
"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," the ex-cricketer said.
Taking care of junior players and the dynamics in such an equation too has been a complaint against Kohli.
"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," another cricketer, who is privy to Kohli's chop-and-change policy, said.
A senior BCCI official pointed out an interesting aspect of the board's media release on Thursday.
"If you look at Sourav and Jay's statements, both have congratulated but not a word uttered if he would remain the captain till 2023 ODI World Cup. So, he would remain, is a far-fetched conclusion," he said.
It is learnt that head coach Ravi Shastri, who will step down at the end of T20 World Cup, has spoken to Kohli, who will now concentrate on his original endeavour – to surpass the 100 international hundreds scored by Sachin Tendulkar.
It is also being reported that Kohli proposed to the selection committee that Sharma be removed from the ODI vice-captaincy because he is 34. He wanted the ODI vice-captaincy to be handed to K L Rahul with Rishabh Pant performing the same role in the T20 format.
"This didn't go down well with the Board which believes that Kohli doesn't want an actual successor," a board source said.
The BCCI officials believe that Kohli wants to safeguard his 50-over captaincy till the 2023 World Cup.
However, it is reliably learnt that it might not happen as in the past few months, Kohli has managed to alienate more people – the players, the support staff, the national selectors, and, last but not the least, the board mandarins.
(With inputs from PTI.)
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