By Chetan Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANS) Within months after he opted to step down as India’s T20I skipper and was sacked from leadership role in ODIs, Virat Kohli has now relinquished the captaincy of the Test side as well.
The shocking announcement came a day after India’s 1-2 Test series defeat to South Africa in Cape Town. Kohli, who first captained India at the Adelaide Test in 2014 against Australia, was appointed to the full-time role after M.S. Dhoni announced his retirement from the format following the drawn third Test against Australia in Melbourne in December 2014.
“It’s been seven years of hard work, toil and relentless perseverance everyday to take the team in the right direction. I’ve done the job with absolute honesty and left nothing out there. Everything has to come to a halt at some stage and for me as Test Captain of India, it’s now. There have been many ups and also some downs along the journey, but never has there been a lack of effort or lack of belief,” Kohli posted on social media on Saturday.
As per the numbers, he steps down from Test captaincy as the most successful skipper in the longest format of the game for India and fourth overall. Under his time as captain, India played 68 Tests, winning 40, losing 17 and drawing 11 matches, with a win percentage of 58.82 while registering memorable wins in overseas and home conditions.
Despite such a good record, Kohli has stunned everyone with his announcement. There could be multiple reasons for his sudden decision.
BCCI vs Kohli
There was a time when Kohli had absolute power in Indian cricket. During that period, BCCI was run by Supreme Court-constituted administrators and the duo of Kohli and then then chief coach Ravi Shastri controlled the Indian cricket setup.
Kohli’s form with the bat also backed his decisions. But times have changed and now with Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah at the helm, the star batter has certainly lost that complete ‘power’.
The 33-year-old’s announcement came on the back of a recent saga between him and the BCCI, which started with his T20I captaincy resignation before the 2021 World Cup.
Last year in early December, the BCCI removed Kohli from the ODI captaincy, naming Rohit Sharma as the new white-ball leader.
A day later, Ganguly said that he had asked Kohli not to step down as T20I captain, but Kohli soon contradicted the BCCI chief, saying his decision to quit was received well by BCCI top officials and that he wasn’t told to reconsider his decision.
He even expressed his disappointment, saying he had been told about his removal as ODI captain just one-and-a-half hours before the selection meeting to pick the Test squad for South Africa.
This became a major discussion point in the cricket world. And it was believed that the BCCI might take action against Kohli. However, as the Test series progressed, the issue got sidelined.
But the controversy stretched further when chief selector Chetan Sharma – while announcing the ODI squad for the South Africa tour on December 31 – said, “Everyone who was present in the meeting asked him to reconsider his decision when Kohli stepped down as T20I captain.”
India managed to win the first Test against the Proteas and the officials praised Kohli and his side. But after the second and third Test, reports of removing Virat as captain again gained momentum.
But before any further news, the captain announced his decision on Twitter.
Virat & Co’s over-reaction and rant on stump mic
The Indian cricketers, including captain Kohli, came under fire after they reacted with dismay and anger when a decision against South Africa captain Dean Elgar was overturned on review at a crucial stage during the third Test at Cape Town. Kohli and his teammates did not mince words and they expressed their frustration over the decision.
On Day 3 of the Test, Dean Elgar reviewed a decision off the bowling of Ravichandran Ashwin on the fourth delivery of the 21st over of South Africa’s inning, after being given out LBW by on-field umpire Marais Erasmus, and the decision was overturned in Proteas skipper’s favour.
As far as the replay is concerned, it showed the ball pitched in line and hit Elgar in the middle. However, quite mysteriously the trajectory of the ball showed that it was going over the leg-stump. Even the umpire expressed his shock and was heard as saying “that is impossible” on the stump mic.
Moments later Ashwin said, “You should find better ways to win Supersport,” while an angry Kohli kicked the ground in disgust and then used the stump microphone to good effect and said, “Focus on your team as well when they shine the ball, eh! Not just the opposition. Trying to catch people all the time.”
Vice-captain KL Rahul was also heard immediately afterward complaining, “It’s the whole country against 11 guys,” while Ashwin also blasted the broadcaster.
The whole on-field act divided the cricket fraternity as few criticised the cricketers while many also termed it right. However, India were cautioned by Andy Pycroft, the match referee for the third Test, for Kohli and his teammates’ ire against host broadcaster SuperSport
Pycroft is believed to have told the Indian team management that the players’ behaviour was uncalled for and they could attract sanctions if such reactions are repeated. However, it has been confirmed that there was no reprimand or charges against the team.
‘Kohli lost respect’
The revolt against Kohli started within the team early last year. According to sources, several senior players in the dressing room were miffed at the attitude of the ace cricketer.
A senior player had complained to BCCI Secretary Jay Shah against Kohli for making him feel ‘insecure’. Kohli had reportedly accused the senior cricketer of showing ‘no intent’ during the World Test Championship final against New Zealand in Southampton, UK.
“Kohli has lost respect and some of the players are not liking his attitude. He is no more an inspirational leader and he doesn’t earn the players’ respect. Some of them have reached their limits when it comes to dealing with him,” a report had come.
It will be interesting to see who becomes the next Test captain of India. The team’s next Test assignment will be against Sri Lanka in a two-match series at home in February-March.
By Chetan Sharma