Virat Kohli’s on Notice in South Africa: Score Runs and Win Series, Else…
Virat Kohli's ODI captaincy was taken away from him on 8 December. He remains captain of the Test team.
Virat Kohli is a brave man. He shows his bravery every time he walks out to bat for India against some of the fiercest bowlers in the world.
But his bravery in front of the media on Wednesday will probably not help him in the long run. He may have dug a big hole from which he may take time to extricate himself.
This sort of bravery is never expected from an Indian captain when it comes to talking about the powers that be, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Indian captains have traditionally shied away from taking a stand or talking truth to power, but Kohli seems to be cut from a different cloth.
He started first last year when he complained about the lack of communication around Rohit Sharma’s injury before the Australia tour. Then during the T20 World Cup he spoke about scheduling and now he has spoken about the ODI captaincy.
The subtext is clear: Kohli is brave and is ready to take on the administration.
This is something no Indian cricketer, in fact, no Indian sportsperson does because they are afraid of the repercussions. Indian sport is based on a feudal structure, which has been perfected from before India's independence in 1947, in which the powers that be are the rulers and sportspersons are their subjects.
For Kohli to forget that is probably going to be a cardinal sin. He probably has not understood the pitfalls of speaking what he thinks is the truth. This has happened thrice in the space of a year and it does not bode well even for someone of the stature of Kohli.
In all the drama in the past fortnight surrounding captaincy, the only one speaking has been Kohli. That is a funny occurrence, because Kohli is speaking about his fate as a captain on a decision taken by someone else. The other characters in the whole drama, the selectors or even the convenor have not spoken. We did have the BCCI President Sourav Ganguly speak, but in the way he spoke, the selectors probably ended up getting undermined.
The now famous media release with a line at the end naming the new white ball captain in Rohit Sharma is the root of the problem. Kohli was fronting up the media days after Ganguly’s ‘forced’ media appearances which probably exacerbated the issue even more.
Kohli’s reaction, therefore, was a reaction to Ganguly’s media talk. But the original problem of the lack of grace in dealing with the issue in the first place was completely forgotten. Kohli may end up paying for the reaction, but those using the graceless approach to sack him as the ODI captain will live to tell another tale.
No one is disputing that India probably needed a new face to helm their ODI affairs. But surely the man who led India across all three formats deserved a better send-off. Coordinated social media campaigns berating Ganguly and Jay Shah, the secretary, led to the BCCI then belatedly thanking Kohli for his leadership in the ODI cricket. Frankly, the figures they put out probably ended up showing Kohli’s record in good light.
What, however, is not in good light is the communication standards in the BCCI. Just take matters over the past one year. When the Indian Premier League (IPL) moved to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the information around it was scant, then the whole Rohit Sharma injury saga, communication around injured players in Australia, then earlier this year the drama around IPL being cut short because of COVID-19 and of course injury dramas around players in England.
The list is endless!
We also had a change of guard in the coaching set-up. The appointment of the new coach was done in the middle of a T20 World Cup match! Rahul Dravid is here but the rest of his staff have not been officially named as yet, though everyone knows who they are. VVS Laxman has taken over from Dravid at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), but we have no information from the BCCI. Then of course basic information around IPL retention, its rules or the date, were missing.
So perhaps Kohli’s sacking as the ODI captain is not that big a deal when you consider that other basic information has not been forthcoming either.
Hence Kohli should have held himself back when he could have looked at the long list of missing items on the agenda. But he perhaps thought that he had the stature to take on the powers that be. No one has survived after taking on the administration in the Indian sport and cricket. Kohli has therefore put himself on notice.
Any misstep from him on the South Africa tour will probably end his Test captaincy too. A loss in the Test series is therefore something that could prove fatal to Kohli. This time he got 90 minutes to know about his sacking, maybe the next time it could be from the media!
Kohli needed to choose his words better and probably not pick up this battle.
It is now Kohli’s word against the BCCI ‘sources'. Kohli will always lose out, because he is available only at press conferences between two events or matches, whereas the sources are available on every phone call!
The only solution to the issue is for Kohli to win the series and score big. The knives are getting sharpened and only runs in South Africa will blunt them.
For now, the matter has died down because the squad has left for South Africa, but the drama has only just begun.
As for the new coach Dravid, he might well be wondering why he always finds himself in the midst of drama in Indian cricket. When Dravid became captain, there was the whole Greg Chappell-Ganguly fiasco and now when he has become coach, the whole captaincy saga has started.
Wonder if it is in Dravid’s stars!
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