My article today was supposed to be on how Team India lost the series to South Africa despite being favourites. I shall leave that for some other day as the big news coming out is the sudden announcement of Virat Kohli stepping down as India’s Test captain.
Kohli’s stepping down as captain is not because India lost the series to South Africa. This was bound to come after the drama with the Indian board, which started with his T20 resignation before the T20 World Cup.
To make matters worse for Kohli, the BCCI President Sourav Ganguly had requested Kohli not to step down, but Kohli didn’t want to continue and hence they decide to axe him as ODI captain too as he felt two white ball captains was ‘too much’ of leadership. Kohli, however, contradicted Ganguly’s statement in the press conference before leaving for South Africa — saying his decision to step down as T20 captain was well received and that he was not told to reconsider his decision.
He further said in the press conference that he had been told about his removal as ODI captain just one-and-half hours before the selection meeting to pick the Test squad for South Africa and that there was no prior communication to him at all. This bombshell made Ganguly say this is BCCI’s internal matter and they would handle it.
Instead, he made the chief selector Chetan Sharma — whom I would call as a puppet of the big guys running the BCCI — counter Kohli’s allegation right in the middle of the Test series that all parties who were present in the meeting had asked Kohli to reconsider his decision to stay on as T20 captain.
I find it baffling to see a captain, who has led India to 40 Test wins in 68 Test matches and just 11 losses, to give up his captaincy just after a series loss to South Africa. He was so desperate to win the series that in the last Test match when Dean Elgar’s dismissal was reversed by the DRS, he gave vent to his frustration further, digging a hole for himself.
His statement where he said everything has to come to a ‘halt’ at some stage and for me as Test captain it’s now — which can’t be coming because of one series loss but because the of way the BCCI handled his removal as ODI captaincy. I believe the selectors wanted Kohli to succumb under pressure and I am afraid he fell to the trap of the top guns running the Indian board.
The sad part is that the next Test match, which India would be playing against Sri Lanka in February-end, would be Kohli’s 100th Test and thanks to the dirty politics, India’s most successful Test captain won’t be leading his team out.
Sad day for India
On a more practical note, I am baffled that he has stepped down as India’s Test captain and I sincerely hope that this decision is for the sake of India and not taken in anger, that he is contented and happy with what he has done for team India till date. We just saw him playing two high-quality innings in the last two Tests where we could see the solid temperament and hunger he had for the longest format. He has got so much of cricket left in him and I sincerely hope that this decision has come out of happiness and not anger for him being removed as the ODI captain as he has a lot to contribute to Indian cricket.
He always gives more than 100 per cent in every game and the energy, which rubs on to every one in the Indian team is unmatchable. No one can doubt his credibility when playing for India, we might sometimes disagree to the decisions he took, but he stood by it and wore his heart on his sleeve as the Indian captain. He was the ideal brand ambassador for Test cricket and took India from the seventh position to No 1, winning series in Sri Lanka, the West Indies, Australia and also beat England. Before he became the captain, India never had the fast bowlers who could win you Test matches abroad, but under him India developed fast bowlers like Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, who could challenge opposition in any condition, be it England, Australia, South Africa.
It’s a sad day for Indian cricket as there is no one even close to him who is the flag-bearer for Test cricket and I sincerely hope he changes his mind as India needs him in Tests at least for the next five years until a new captain is groomed.