Virat Kohli has had a tough four days at the helm as Indian captain. First, he and his team suffered an ignominious defeat to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy 2017 Final. But more significantly, a day after this loss, the 28-year-old engineered the ouster of one of India’s favourite cricketing sons and a successful coach of the national team, thereby showing himself in a poor light. In the end, Kohli has gotten what he wanted, but how will this affect his stock in the Indian dressing room and with his fans going forward?
Let us find out.
None of us has been in the Indian dressing room and therefore, we cannot quite say the actual causes for the rift between Kohli and former coach Anil Kumble. Widespread reports have been that this duo had a few disagreements including the selection of Kuldeep Yadav in the playing XI for the fourth Test against Australia, and Kumble’s so-called authoritarian style of coaching apparently upset not just the captain but also a few of the senior members. The latter seems to be the biggest cause for the fallout and the eventual resignation from Anil.
You have to say that the shambolic BCCI sided with the captain and hasn’t handled this issue the way it ideally should have. Because otherwise, the position of head coach for Team India will not have been advertised for on May 25, for two reasons: the Kumble-Kohli partnership had produced a fantastic 2016-17 season for Indian cricket and Team India were about to get their Champions Trophy title defence underway. At which time, the team shouldn’t have been distracted from the job they had to do. Essentially, therefore, the former Indian cricket coach was disrespected. The latest Champions Trophy was the final assignment of the 46-year-old’s one-year contract and having overseen it, the dignified “Jumbo” chose to call quits.
The Kohli angle
Cricket is not football, a sport in which the manager or the coach is the face of his team. In cricket, the captain is indeed the face of his team and a big portion of the credit for team’s victories and defeats goes to the captain. Therefore, captain Kohli should have been the one choosing the playing XI… of course, with advice and input from his coach. What we, however, understand, is that Kumble tried to coerce his captain to pick a player who the captain was probably not in favour of. In fact, Kuldeep Yadav playing the Dharamsala Test, we understand, came as a surprise to Kohli, who had to sit out the same due to a right shoulder injury.
The current Indian captain was also in favour of Ravi Shastri, who was the team director until last year’s World Twenty20 Championship, continuing in his role or being made the permanent coach. The BCCI, however, advertised for the position once Shastri’s tenure came to an end in March 2016 and despite being in the running for the head coach position, Shastri was overlooked by the cricket advisory committee, who instead chose to appoint one of the Fab Five of Indian cricket, in June 2016.
Though he himself is an intense person who basically wants to excel in what he does, Kohli probably found Kumble’s personality to be hampering the morale in the dressing room… despite all the success over the last year. And he did his best to ensure that this issue wasn’t clear to those on the outside. When asked if he had a rift with Kumble, Kohli, speaking at the press conference before Team India’s Champions Trophy Group B opener against Pakistan, firmly denied it.
The Kumble angle
In his resignation statement, the former Indian captain and now the former coach has mentioned that he “had always respected the role boundaries between Captain and Coach”. This sentence makes us question the actual cause of the rift between the captain and coach and if these two men had a fallout at all.
Kumble enjoyed a successful international cricket career—he remains the highest wicket taker for India in Tests (619) and ODIs (334)—and he played under a handful of captains and coaches before becoming a captain himself and leading India in 14 Tests. Therefore, will he not have known at least an aspect or two about captaincy and coaching in cricket? Not to forget the fact that he is a qualified engineer too. So, what is Kohli getting at?
If, as we have read, Kumble imposed himself a little and demanded more from the players, wasn’t he doing so for their benefit and the benefit of Indian cricket? If asking cricketers to exert themselves more is wrong and offensive, then what won’t be? Finally, don’t the current crop of cricketers being led by Kohli want to be successful and be remembered even after they hang their boots?
How has Kohli tarnished his image somewhat?
Well, here’s a captain who has told and will tell the next coach too, how he and his troops want to be coached. This is an unimpressive message to Anil’s replacement. By saying or indicating that Kumble’s style of coaching was akin to a task master, Kohli has alluded to wanting complete control of what goes on in the dressing room, practice sessions and basically in his presence. This should, in fact, be the other way round, with the coach telling the players what they need to do between matches and in practice sessions and frame schedules that provide the perfect platform to prepare for high-voltage matches which Team India will more often than not be part of.
Let us face it, Kohli has already been a highly successful cricketer and earned his current role as captain of Team India. He has endeared himself to the Indian cricket fans through his stylish strokeplay and inherent match-winning ability. But Kumble was also a match-winner for India and the former leggie has only enhanced his reputation with his successful 12-month stint as Team India coach. On the other hand, Kohli is seeking prima donna treatment for himself and his players and though his antics of today might not be overly scrutinised, for India are successful, they will start to be sooner or later.
Indian cricket fans are knowledgeable and Kohli cannot continue getting away with a similar conduct. Fans in this country adore their cricketers and treat them as superstars, but they can also bite back quickly. Kohli’s pompousness will not be tolerated and if you ask me, his hate list has grown considerably in the last 24-48 hours.