Sandeep Patil: Why Is Virat Kohli Resting During Asia Cup?
“Desh ke liye marna aur desh ke liye khelna sabko naseeb nahi hota”.
Every child who takes up cricket, dreams of playing for the country. However, lately, after the introduction of T-20 cricket, many of our own players have been seen opting out of national duty to make themselves available and fit for the cash-rich IPL.
The latest blow came when Indian selectors decided to give a break to Virat Kohli from next week’s Asia Cup. As a former chairman of the selection committee, I do agree that players’ workload should be taken into account but when it comes to India-Pakistan matches – in which the cricket-loving people of India get so emotionally and sentimentally involved – it makes it difficult to understand why such a decision was made. In fact, it is not just the fans, even players and board officials of both the countries feel very strongly about this one big match-up.
But this great game of cricket is also all about timing. Great timing puts you on top and bad timing puts you at the bottom.
I was talking to the great Kapil Dev, whose workload started at an early age and never finished till he retired. He used to bowl not only long spells in matches – and the matches included Tests, ODIs, domestic cricket and also games for employers he was representing – he used to also bowl from the first batsman till the last batsman in practice sessions, without taking break.
Has cricket changed so much that today’s Indian players who are so fit and focused can’t take the workload?
As the years passed by, different techniques and theories and workload management has taken the front seat.
If you were to ask whether winning a series against West Indies or the Asia Cup title –which would bring more honor and joy to our players, BCCI and sports lovers, the answer is very simple – an Asia Cup victory. And that too when a team like Pakistan is involved.
It is unfortunate that at a time like this, the BCCI is having its own problems. In the last two years, the fight and arguments between the Lodha Committee-appointed COA and other BCCI members has been in the extreme. In such a situation, who is calling the shots in the team then? Is it captain Kohli? Is it coach Ravi Shastri? The team management? Or the trainer who manages the workload of these players?
Coming back to Kapil Dev. He told me that in his entire career, he never ever thought of taking even a one day break. He just wanted to bowl, bat and field. He took great pride in representing India and perform for India and so did the other players of my generation.
Times I know have changed but what I wonder is with this new strategy of giving rest to players and with everyone giving so much importance to fitness, we still end up seeing more injuries. That’s why the same question keeps coming up. Is it worth it to let important players rest during important tournaments? Has the game changed so much?
My answer is no. Players still play under the same sun with the same kind of bats and bowl against different opponents and turfs.
When you chalk out the schedule it is important for selectors to know which events are high on the priority list and which are not. They need to know where a team needs to be at its full strength and where some players can be left behind. In this case, the answer is very simple. A victory in the Asia Cup is more important than a win against West Indies.
My argument is that when we have number one batsman in the world who is in brilliant form, has taken Indian cricket to another level and has the ability to conquer the cricketing world, Virat Kohli should have been informed by the selectors about the importance of leading and winning the Asia Cup.
Another thought is that maybe selectors may have let Virat rest this month so they can see what this Indian team does without him. The opportunity has been given to Rohit Sharma to lead the team and see if they can rise to the occasion for a time when Virat is not available to play.
But again, why take a chance?
We ourselves are making things difficult by making such decisions.
Rohit now has a big task ahead of him – get the team together, get the balance right and pick the right combination. But he does not have time in his hand, he has to act fast. What mistakes like not preparing well can result in, we experienced during the England tour. Every day, every game brings new challenges to the captain and players.
As we have always been saying, we have a great team and we a have great chance. But having a great team on paper and seeing great players performing on the field are two different things.
Like all cricket loving people of India I am also hoping that we not only beat Pakistan but we should win the Asia Cup once again.
(The author is a former India cricketer who played 29 Tests and 45 ODIs for India. After his retirement, Sandeep Patil served as Chief Selector of BCCI’s Selection Committee and also as the Director of NCA (National Cricket Academy)