Kohli to Step Down as T20 Captain; But What About His Place in the Format?
Virat Kohli will step down as Indian T20 captain after the T20 World Cup later this year.
Virat Kohli has stunned India, yet again!
Not with the bat, but with an announcement which came at probably the right time, unlike the press releases from the BCCI!
The news, that Kohli has decided to step down as India’s T20I captain post the upcoming T20 World Cup in UAE and Oman, leaves enough time for outrage and reactions.
This announcement comes amid speculation that Kohli would step down as the white-ball captain post the T20 World Cup. Of course, there were large scale denials from the office-bearers of the BCCI, which now appear jocular in hindsight.
Though he has announced his decision to quit just the T20I captaincy, a time will come in the very near future, maybe before the South Africa tour in January 2022, when he may quit the ODI captaincy too.
Unlike other teams who have to depend on qualifying for the 2023 ODI World Cup through the Super League that is happening through respective bilateral series, India as host, has no such pressure. Kohli can thus afford to take it a little easy in the ODI format and that may be why he has not decided to quit as ODI captain as well right away.
But that decision will also come very soon.
For now, the focus is on the change in T20I captaincy. The pressure was growing in recent days. The calls for the same continued after successes Rohit Sharma has had with the Mumbai Indians – winning the IPL five times. That in itself proved Sharma’s credentials as T20 captain.
India has for a long time needed to reset their T20I cricket set-up, bringing in batsmen who bat with gay abandon, a captain who knows how to win T20 tournaments and of course bowlers who are specialists in the format.
The stage was set for that with the inclusion of the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, alongside KL Rahul. That is a power-packed line-up in T20I cricket, one which provides a lot of aggression all the way through.
In this line-up, in a way, Sharma and Kohli are the only ones who are the odd ones out because they are cut from a different cloth to these younger batsmen, who blast from the word go.
Rahul can also be one who could be considered similar to their style and hence, is finding it difficult in recent times to make it to the T20I XI.
Kohli even decided to open the batting in T20I cricket when he joined forces with Sharma during the bilateral cricket against England at home. So, the clock was ticking as far as T20I cricket was concerned because there were much more devastating batsmen who were coming through thick and fast, owing to the proliferation of IPL talent over the last couple of years.
The interesting bit is that Kohli, despite making his ODI debut in 2008, did not start his T20I career till 2010, which means he was never a natural starter in the format in any case.
Batsmen of the kind that Kohli represents are going to slowly be phased out of the format because of the way the batting is structured in T20 cricket.
Just look at England and the way they have left out Joe Root from their T20 World Cup squad. In fact, Root has not made it to the England T20I squad for the past year. It is an indication that the batting GPS for the T20 format is being reset. It is not about the bulk of runs, it is about the pace at which you bat, which is important in this format.
You can afford to take time to score in the ODI format, but time is of essence in the T20s and hence the ‘correct’ batsmen will soon go out of shape. The old theory that if you are good for Tests, then you are good for any format does not apply anymore.
A sword is also hanging over the other member of the famous quartet of batsmen currently ruling world cricket, that is Steve Smith. Even the Australian is under pressure to retain his place in the T20I squad so don’t be surprised that in the coming months, Kohli’s T20I appearances reduce for India.
The other interesting bit for Kohli to consider would be about giving up the IPL captaincy at the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Those are three months of high-pressured cricket that he could probably do away with at this stage of his career. The captaincy can very well move to someone younger if required at RCB, but at this stage, Kohli is probably not thinking that far.
The most important aspect of the Kohli decision is scheduling. The number of bilateral white-ball matches that India plays has reduced in the last couple of years as the time spent in quarantine has increased.
This year alone, India has played just six ODIs and the number could be smaller next year and might increase only in the lead-up to the 2023 ODI World Cup. So, Kohli may keep delaying the announcement about possibly leaving ODI captaincy for a little longer.
Test cricket, however, will gain a lot of primacy because India has a packed calendar in that format. So, in a way, Kohli’s decision seems smart.
We still don’t know if Kohli was pushed out but the clock was surely ticking from the time the appointment of MS Dhoni as mentor for the T20 World Cup was made public.
The presence of Dhoni couched in whatever way was an indication that the squad needed to bag an ICC title, and soon enough. It was a sort of nudge from the BCCI to Kohli that they are bringing in an outside voice in the dressing room specifically to bag that elusive ICC title.
Kohli knew better than most that the time is running out fast and he made a smart decision in the end. Obviously, reports in the last few days have only hurt Kohli’s brand especially with news that he was not informed about Ravichandran Ashwin’s inclusion or that Rahul and Kishan will be openers.
So, the selectors have finally taken charge and the Kohli power has slowly lost its sheen.
But when he did make his announcement to step down, he stunned the whole cricketing world. That touch is very much around.
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