Virat Kohli To Play The ODIs In South Africa Under Rohit’s Leadership, Ends The Rift Speculation!

A bombshell dropped by a tweet of the former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin that indicated a possible rift between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma over the issue of split-captaincy which was lapped up fondly by a juicily speculative news and social media, aiming inevitably for a crescendoing climax at the most eagerly looked for press conference by the India Test captain Virat Kohli today in Mumbai finally ended with a cool and composed Kohli answering the questions candidly and bravely. To my knowledge he is the first captain of the Indian cricket team to have publicly questioned the functioning style of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) by implying clearly a lack of communication between the board and him or other players.


Virat said that the Chief Selector contacted him only one and half hours before informing him about their decision to sack him as the ODI (50-over one day international) captain in favor of Rohit Sharma to which Virat, as he had disclosed, responded positively and informed about his availability for selection for the shorter format. This apparently declared war with the board did not end there as Virat denied that he was ever requested by the President of BCCI, Sourav Ganguly to not give up the T20I captaincy prior to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup-2021. Recently, Ganguly said to the media that he had personally requested Virat for the same. Is this going to be the start of a war between the most aggressive captains ever—former captain Ganguly Vs present Test captain Kohli? In any case, his feelings raise important questions about the rather opaque functioning of the BCCI which is further corroborated by the fact the board preferred to remain silent amid one of the most speculative debates about cricket for over a day ahead of a very important tour.


The India Test captain went on to say that he was tired of answering the question of a ‘proverbial rift’ with Rohit Sharma, and confirmed that there was never any rift with the most experienced cricketer of the team, further saying that he would miss Rohit as an opener in the Test Series coming up in South Africa later this month. The most positive news for millions of Indian fans is that Virat is ready to play the ODI Series under the newly appointed captain Rohit Sharma. Virat also denied having requested the BCCI about taking rest from the ODI Series in South Africa in the beginning of this year. About giving up his T20I captaincy Virat said that he informed the board about his decision that was received positively by the board, and that he made it clear that he’d be available for selection as Test and ODI captain if the BCCI and selectors thought in similar lines. Asked about the possible reasons for his ‘sacking’ he answered candidly that possibly the reasons could be his inability to win an ICC cup. He added that the change of leadership would not affect his role as a batsman in the team.


The seeds of the proverbial rift between Virat and Rohit were sown during the ICC Men’s World Cup-2019 when Rohit allegedly violated the regulations by allowing his family stay with him for more than the mandated 15 days which was followed by an alleged social media action by Rohit. After that the issue of the rift has been coming again and again in the cricket grapevine despite the on-field demonstrations by the duo about their long-lasting friendship.  It was again reported during the India Tour of Australia-2020-21 when Rohit Sharma was not included in the squad due to a hamstring injury or for personal reasons leading Kohli to wonder aloud about the whereabouts of Rohit. Rohit’s ‘hamstring pull’ injury has been very frequent in the recent two years and rather mysterious too.


In the middle of the year 2020 Rohit was reportedly suffering from that injury; however, he became fit during the IPL-2020 in UAE leading his Mumbai Indians team and winning the Championship title. But after that he was again in the ‘injury’ list, coming to Australia only in the second of the Test Series when Virat left the team for domestic reasons. Now, ahead of the South Africa tour and him being made the captain in the shorter format, Rohit again suffered a hamstring pull during practice session in Mumbai and was ruled out of the Test Series, advising a rest for about a month. The coincidence was so delicious, Virat Test captain with Rohit not playing and Rohit ODI captain with Virat not playing, that there was no stopping the speculative games. Rohit Sharma should be more careful and must have a ‘national pride first’ perspective if the selectors and the Board had really believed in his experience (rather than choosing a captain younger than Kohli) to lead Team India into the T20I World Cup in 2022 and the ODI World Cup in 2023.  


There must have been some behind-the-scene ‘damage control’ activities by the Board and other cricket mandarins leading to Virat’s presser. And also, the fact that the union Sports minister spoke to the media saying that ‘no individual player is bigger than the national team’. However, irrespective of whatever must have happened we must congratulate Virat Kohli for his wonderful candidness and straightforwardness. No doubt, he, the most successful Indian captain in all formats, must have felt a little let down by the last-minute decision conveyed to him over phone; but as per his strong mental frame he’d definitely overcome everything and perform as wonderfully as all his life as a batsman to help his team conquer the last frontier with Series wins. His press conference today was not just for clarifications, but this has been a customary practice by India captains a day ahead of the team’s departure. Team India is leaving for South Africa tomorrow morning instead of 12th December as scheduled earlier and we wish them all the luck.


In conclusion, I need to mention one point again: we, the lovers and fans of the game, make excellent cricketers into ‘superstars’ which is also apparent in the film world, and these superstars are always hyped to the sky by the media. In the aftermath, obviously, such superstars develop egos, mannerisms and dictatorial attitudes which is inimical to the spirit of the game. Virat Kohli is a superhero as he has the best of both worlds of cricket and cinema having one of the top heroines of Bollywood as his wife. But his fans must understand that playing in all formats, performing in all formats and having the burden of leadership in all formats really makes one tired, superhero or normal cricketer. Virat must be the only three-format captain with the exception of Kane Williamson who has also been seen to take rest often in the present-day world cricket. Not to speak of the bio-bubble fatigue of nearly two years now. Therefore, everyone must accept the reality and act accordingly.


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