Team India, who urgently need runs, hopes the task won’t be as heavy as it looks.
Kohli is now “just” the test skipper instead of the talismanic leader and multi-format energizing bunny that lights up your TV screens whenever India is in play. He is also without any serious testing for two years. The fourth most successful test captain in history finds his status as a leader undermined by the events of the past few weeks.
The team itself is in a strategic transition as one head coach takes over from another. For Kohli, now 33, it’s exactly the kind of late career crisis every Indian captain hopes to avoid but inevitably falls into. The two most openly combative captains in Indian cricket history who face off over anything is not good news.
When it comes to the best Indian drummer of this generation, who may still have a few good years left, it’s doubly alarming. Ganguly may feel aggrieved that his ‘big brother’ comment on asking Kohli to ‘reconsider’ stepping down as captain T20 has been interpreted literally.
Kohli was allegedly aware that he was violating the board’s omerta for saying he was not officially asked to stay behind. For the rest of us, this may just be an indication that the decision to remove Kohli from the ODI captaincy in such a casual manner may have been commissioned by the board rather than approved by the selector.
By putting all the cards on the table and putting all the tricks on the edge of the abyss, Kohli emptied his intentions but came into direct confrontation with his employers. Ganguly, himself used to being in politics during his playing days, has decided not to make the problem worse in public before such an important tour.
It is no longer a question of who is right or wrong. The board’s penchant for cloak and dagger operations goes back a long way and is unlikely to change now. If anything, there has been an error in judgment when it comes to calculating the cost of Kohli needling.
We had a great week of preparation. Vice-captain @ klrahul11 explains how #TeamIndia gets involved… https://t.co/8bZQqLD0Lu
– BCCI (@BCCI) 1640351430000
He’s a cricketer who brings with him the streetfighter tendencies of a Javed Miandad and the stubborn tricks of a Ricky Ponting. His cricket was born out of conflict and thrives on conflict. This is the fuel he needs to stoke his genius.
He is a cricketer who has accused people of bluffing for a long time, for good or for bad. He presented Steve Smith’s infamous ‘brain degradation’ as a lie and revealed the Aussie’s tendency to seek advice in the locker room before calls from the DRS.
Kohli also pointed his middle finger at an abusive SCG mob and rudely refused to work with a “bossy” Anil Kumble.
Given that India won 46.4% of overseas tests, the highest number, and 67.1% ODI and 69.2% T20I under Ravi Shastri, who can say who was right?
Team headshots done. A few sleeps from the first test. We cannot wait. 👏 # TeamInde | #SAvIND https://t.co/cVBjTmThXl
– BCCI (@BCCI) 1640156638000
Kohli also charged headlong into a heated midterm clash with fiery Gautam Gambhir in an IPL match, and then shook hands with him afterwards. It was only Kohli, among all the other active cricketers and board members, who faced an army of fundamentalist and vicious trolls and protected his teammate Mohammed Shami after India’s loss at the Cup. of the world T20.
It’s not that Kohli isn’t aware of the cost. It’s just that he’s not very sensitive to manipulation. Maybe he needs a different treatment, and that’s where new coach Rahul Dravid can come in.
There are lessons in this ugly episode for Kohli. Most importantly, for the best batsmen, only runs count. Without races, you are an easy target. Remember this is a cricketer who changed his career with personal sacrifice. He starved himself, changed his lifestyle, punished his body until it was chiseled to satisfactory fitness standards.
Now is the time for a second wind. Kohli’s last test century, or century in any format, took place in November 2019. Since then, in 58 rounds in all formats, he has averaged 39.70. The operative part is that in 23 test rounds since then he has a shocking average of 26.04.
#TeamIndia had an intense net session 💪🏻 at SuperSport Park 🏟️ in preparation for the first #SAvIND Test. Here is… https://t.co/DhmQn7iXWU
– BCCI (@BCCI) 1639975131000
This steep drop comes without ever looking really cranky, although he has tended to look unsteady and flirt outside of the strain in the quest for quick runs.
Since his last ton of testing, he only has a test winning record of 46.15% as captain, up from 62.26% before the century against Bangladesh in the day-to-night test. The good news is he is averaging 55.80 on 5 Tests, with 2 hundred, against South Africa away from home.
He is among the top five batsmen in terms of averages (59.72) against SA, after Neil Harvey, Michael Clarke, Wally Hammond and Jack Hobbs. It is an august company indeed.
Scoring big in South Africa and India will have rediscovered its batting spine. Do not mark large and the knives will be sharp. Can conflict fuel Kohli’s fire this time, too?