India's Virat Kohli will head to the UAE from London on Saturday night
A greater percentage of Virat Kohli's batting exploits came as a captain only, feels Dilip Vengsarkar. Image Credit: AP

Kolkata: It’s been four days since Virat Kohli shocked the cricketing fraternity by stepping down from Test captaincy, but Dilip Vengarkar - the Indian batting legend and former chairman of selection committee - still fails to see a cricketing reason behind it.

‘‘To be honest, the decision really surprised me. He had just left captaincy of white ball cricket, so I thought he would continue leading India in Tests because that’s the ultimate form of cricket and also something very close to his heart,’’ said Vengsarkar, who was at the helm of the selection committee when a young Kohli made his senior international debut in one-day cricket.

The uneasy truce prevailing between Kohli and the powers that-be in the BCCI right from the eve of South Africa tour, including the current selection committee chairman Chetan Sharma, is believed to be the reason that forced a somewhat cornered Kohli to step down from the hot seat. Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview over phone, the ‘Colonel’, as he was nicknamed, shouldered arms on the issue if there was a trust deficit between the current selection committee and Kohli.

‘‘See, I don’t really know as I am sitting in Mumbai but I can say that communication is the key. There should be transparency between the selectors, coach and captain,’’ was all he would say.

Cricket - Dilip Vengsarkar
It may be a good idea to make a stop-gap Test captain in Rohit Sharma or Ravi Ashwin and groom someone in the interim, says Vengsarkar. Image Credit: Supplied photo

A lover of Kohli’s aggression and style of captaincy, Vengsarkar however refused to buy the argument that Kohli will be better off as a batsman without the baggages of captaincy. ‘‘I don’t agree with this for I feel that Kohli has had a dream run for nearly five years as a batsman and captain. For all the talk about his current lean pahse, I feel that Indians are often obsessed with statistics and that’s something that I don’t believe in,’’ he observed.

‘‘Yes, it’s true that he hasn’t got a century over the last few years but the way he applied himself, adapted to the movement and bounce of the ball on the South African wickets was exemplary. At Newlands, the way he held himself back and built the innings after the fall of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane to score 79 off 160-odd balls - every run continued on those wickets. His commitment and intent was fantastic,’’ Vengsarkar felt.

There is a perception that while a seasoned campaigner like Rohit Sharma was at hand to take over the white ball captaincy from Kohli, there is no clear-cut answer for his replacement as a Test captain. Asked if Kohli could have continued for another two years as the leader in Tests, Vengsarkar countered: ‘‘To me, he was a performer who enjoyed his captaincy and liked to lead from the front. His win percentage (58% with 40 wins from 68 Tests) speaks for itself and he could have continued - though I don’t know for how long.’’


Looking ahead, what would he have done to pick the successor? ‘‘Interestingly, my committee was faced with a similar situation when Rahul Dravid stepped down from captaincy and we had a demanding Australia tour round the corner. Some felt that M.S.Dhoni, who was leading in the shorter format, be promoted but we went ahead with Anil Kumble who did a fantastic job.

‘‘If you ask me, it may be a practical idea to have a stop-gap arrangement with Rohit Sharma or even Ravi Ashwin for a year or so and groom someone in the meanwhile,’’ said Vengsarkar.

The 2022 will again be a hectic year for Indian cricket team across all formats and with a new head coach and now captain across all formats, some major changes could be on the cards. The middle order in Tests have been a source of worry so long with Kohli’s drought of a big innings and Pujara and Rahane’s prolonged lean patch creating a major headache.

Asked if the result of the South Africa series could have been different if Kohli-Dravid duo were ready to drop either of Pujara or Rahane in favour of some of the younger names, Vengsarkar felt there was no point in pondering on the ‘ifs and buts’ of the game. ‘‘However, there are ready youngsters like Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and Ruturaj Gaekwad - the last-named being technically very sound. I am sure selectors are also watching the India ‘A’ games with an eye towards the future.

‘‘The only suggestion is there shouldn’t be wholsesale changes as that would be a knee-jerk reaction,’’ he signed off.