Dubai: Every move of Virat Kohli and his celebrity wife Anushka is, cheered or often jeered, by the social media. It was hence no surprise that the Indian captain’s request for paternity leave (at the cost of missing three important Test matches against Australia) would again polarise opinions.
It may be more of a cultural thing, one can say, as the Indian cricket fan has been fed on stories of how a Sunil Gavaskar had to wait for months - being away on an overseas tour to see his new-born son Rohan. Or in more recent times before the 2015 ICC World Cup in Australia, the erstwhile skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose not to fly back when his daughter Ziva was born on February 6, 2015, two days ahead of India’s final warm-up game against Australia.
Asked by the media if he missed being next to his wife and daughter, Dhoni then famously said: “As of now, I am on national duty so I think everything else can wait. The World Cup is a very important campaign.”
If the World Cup was an ‘important campaign’ for Dhoni, so is the tour of Australia for India - but then it’s a matter of personal choice. There are instances of any number of overseas cricketers missing Tests or important assignments to be with their families - the latest coming to mind being when England’s Test captain Joe Root skipped a home Test against the West Indies in July and vice-captain Ben Stokes had to step in.
Kohli has, over the past few years, often been candid enough to admit that there is more to life than cricket for him and it looked a somewhat foregone conclusion that he would like to be next to Anushka as this treasured moment of his life.
It may be also worthwhile to note that with the global travelling restrictions and quarantine periods very much in place, it will not be really feasible for Kohli to fly back after the first Test and then join for the latter part of the series. Australia still has a 14-day quarantine period as the Test series is quite tightly shoehorned within a month from December 17 to January 19 next year.
“I think it’s pretty challenged (for him to return). Obviously a mandatory 14-day quarantine period,” remarked Nick Hockley, Cricket Australia chief executive, who backed Kohli’s decision.
Hockley, who is CA’s interim chief executive, said that Kohli missing a major part of the Test series was expected but he is glad that arguably the best batsman in the world will be available for three T20 Internationals and as many ODIs starting November 27.
“When they announced their pregnancy earlier, I think it was always on the cards,” Hockley told Sydney radio station SEN.
“We’re thrilled Virat is coming out for three ODIs, three T20s, the first ever day-night Test against India and we have to respect the fact he wants to be there for the birth of his first child.”
“Clearly, (he is) one of the game’s absolute superstars. We’re looking forward to seeing him here for seven out of the 10 matches,” he said.
Hockley said both teams have enough stars to ensure that cricket fans will be hooked to the series. “You’ve got a good number of players from both sides who played the last series in Australia which India won. There’ll be a huge amount to play for . it will be fascinating series.”
Hockley said it looks highly unlikely that Kohli could get back to Australia to play the latter part of the series. “Logistically it’s very much more complicated and being brutal it’s much harder than normal.”