And Then Virat Kohli Quits As Test Captain: Climax Of The Split-Captaincy Saga?

It was not entirely unexpected even though millions of his fans are just thunderstruck today by his sudden announcement to step down from Test captaincy, just the day after losing the Cape Town Test; because what had been happening in the last few months over the split-captaincy controversy definitely left its mark on the mind of the most successful captain of Indian Test cricket, Virat Kohli, with 40 Test victories out of 68 tests, including both home and away ones, under his leadership during in the last seven years. However, a 1-2 series loss to South Africa is not such a huge tragedy that should make the captain take the responsibility and step down. There are other factors leading to his decision apart from the split-captaincy issue to which we’ll come a bit later:

·       Virat has not been amongst the runs in the last two years without being able to score a single century, and his batting abilities were being questioned repeatedly.

·       Virat not being able to win the World Test Championship Final against New Zealand in England.

·       Virat suddenly announcing his decision to quit as the T20 captain after the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup-2021 when the important tournament was nearly two months away. This decision came as a shocker to all including the cricket board, and many experts commented that this decision should ideally have come after the tournament as it leaves a negative impression on the team facing a tough international challenge.

·       India’s forgettable performance in that World Cup with some very obvious tactical errors by Virat in terms of selection of players and the batting line-up.

·       Personal issues coming up again and again making him leave the Australia Series midway and then sitting out of the second test against South Africa.

·       Virat’s suggestion in his pre-departure press conference that Sourav Ganguly, the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), was probably lying.

·       Lastly, the truly heart-breaking loss to South Africa when everybody was expecting India to win easily enough after going 1-0 up and that the failure was entirely due to batting of which Virat is the mainstay.


Now to the split-captaincy controversy. On December 9, 2021 the BCCI Selectors announced the squads for the India Tour South Africa, naming Rohit Sharma as the regular white-ball captain that means both for ODI and T20 matches while retaining Kohli as the Test captain. This came as a shock to the most successful India captain as he made it clear that he was available for ODI captaincy while announcing his decision to quit T20 captaincy. Later, he announced that he would not be playing the ODI Series due to ‘personal reasons’ to which the BCCI countered that Kohli had not applied for leave during that period. The conflict between BCCI and Virat Kohli was just growing up then.


Finally, at his press conference on 15th December, 2021 before leaving for South Africa the next day, Virat Kohli dropped a bombshell about Ganguly that we mentioned above. However, he confirmed that he would be playing in the ODI Series even as he clearly expressed his hurt on being informed about the sacking just one hour before the announcement. The BCCI President kept his silence over the ‘lie’ controversy just saying that the matter would be sorted out in due course. That the BCCI had been handling the delicate issue rather insensitively became clear when the Chief Selector chose the date of 1st January 2022 to react to Virat’s hurt by saying that the decision in regard to one white-ball captain had been unanimous, just after India’s glorious Centurion victory. This must have aggravated Virat’s feelings, perhaps leading to his opting out of the crucial second Test in Johannesburg.


Having said all that it is an unfortunate fact that in India any influential person or group gradually becomes a power centre and in case of Virat it is basically a conflict between two power circles—the BCCI or Ganguly Vs Kohli. We had seen it in the case of MS Dhoni too when his stupendous success as captain made him almost a dictator getting whatever he wanted. The same thing happened in case of Virat too; combined with the then coach Ravi Shastri he got everything done as per his wish, even getting rid of the newly appointed head coach Anil Kumble just because he did not prefer him. After the Supreme Court of India brought the richest cricket board of the world to its knees in 2014 following the IPL spot-fixing scandal, the BCCI under Sourav Ganguly has been trying to rebuild its supremacy—not allowing any player to become too big as had always been the case in the past decades. Only Indian cricket suffered, and in the present scenario there is not concrete transition plan for future in appointing a long-term Test captain. Perhaps, as per Ganguly’s ‘sorting out in due course’ would’ve amounted to sacking Virat as Test captain on the team’s arrival back home, and in this regard Virat must have preempted the inevitable.


Virat Kohli has been a terrific player of all times and such happenings should not be allowed to impact his batting as he has still several years to play, and it is sure that he’d soon be amongst the runs once rid of all captaincy hassles. The two living legends, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, were leading the team only briefly, and that had no impact on their game. Or even Kapil Dev, the incredible winner of the 1983 World Cup. Kohli has all the time in his hands to go past the legends or join ranks with them. We wish him all the luck.


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