NEW DELHI: Virat Kohli’s decision to step down as T20I captain came as a shock to the cricketing world, but it did not come as a surprise to many within the BCCI, with the decision being made months before the official announcement.
While media sources made these decisions public last week, despite the board’s denials, Kohli put a stop to suspicions on Thursday (September 16) by issuing a statement claiming workload management as the primary reason for the move.
There were rumblings in the corridors of power about an expected change at the top as early as July, shortly after the World Test Championship final. Apart from the need to reclaim his batsmanship, which Kohli has stated he intends to do by giving up T20I captaincy, there have been signs of additional captaincy strain surfacing.
Kohli’s problems were only going to get worse with a new selection committee and an upcoming shift in the coaching staff.
For example, he had to push hard to get Shikhar Dhawan into the India-England ODI squad in February and March of this year. According to reports, the selectors sought another opener who had performed well in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Dhawan, who had already lost his place in the Twenty20 squad, was a must, according to Kohli.
It’s a different story that the selectors had to name Dhawan as the ODI captain in a completely different situation (for the Sri Lanka series). The argument in that March conference was so heated that the BCCI had to wait for a consensus before announcing the squad, almost five days after it was chosen.
Those in the know, however, claim that the captain and selectors’ relationship is OK, and that the March meeting was an outlier.
Kohli was also under increasing pressure, particularly in terms of winning an ICC tournament. The Mumbai Indians have won five IPL titles under Rohit Sharma’s leadership since 2013, while the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s trophy cabinet remains empty, adding fuel to the debate over Kohli’s captaincy in the shortest format.
Kohli’s close aide, on the other hand, seemed unconcerned by such suggestions: “He didn’t need to prove himself to anyone. He simply desired to be relieved of a minor burden.”
Kohli told BCCI secretary Jay Shah on Thursday, only hours before issuing a statement on Twitter, that he wanted to concentrate on his batting. He is still the captain of RCB. He has also stated that he has no plans to relinquish his ODI captaincy at this time.
Following his discussions with Kohli, the BCCI secretary convened a meeting with the selection committee, during which Kohli announced his choice. When this meeting was arranged, it is believed that the selection panel was unaware of the gravity of the decision that was about to be made.
The meeting lasted roughly 20 minutes and took place about 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Kohli made it clear during the meeting, which was also attended by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, Shah, Chetan Sharma, chairman of the senior men’s selection committee, and the rest of the panel, that he wanted to give the decision makers enough time to decide on the future of the Indian T20I team, which is why he decided to step down after the World Cup.
While Rohit Sharma is the obvious choice to lead India in the shortest format, the selectors have plenty of time to plot a course for the future, with India’s next T20I match against New Zealand coming only in November-December.