There was no communication.” Of all the things Virat Kohli said at his press conference ahead of the Indian cricket team’s departure for South Africa, these words ring the loudest. Addressing the media after days of speculation over a rift, Kohli was clear he did not have a problem with Rohit Sharma, that he was available for selection in the ODIs against South Africa and he had no issues being removed as the ODI captain.
So far, so good. Speculations, rumours, gossip were flying thick and fast and Virat Kohli played with a bat to deal with a barrage of questions. In essence, Kohli said he had no differences with Rohit Sharma and he understood why he was removed as ODI captain. The only bone of contention for Kohli was the way he was removed.
And this is where things start getting murkier.
Six days ago, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said he had asked Virat Kohli not to step down as India’s T20I captain. But Kohli did not agree and decided to step down anyway. Consequently, the administrators had to remove him as ODI skipper because the selectors wanted to stick to one man for the job in the shorter formats.
For six whole days, that looked like a plausible explanation until Virat Kohli dropped a bombshell. In a press conference on Wednesday, Kohli said when he approached the BCCI top brass to tell them he was ready to give up his T20I captaincy, it was well received. Nobody asked him to stay on and there was no prior communication when he was removed as ODI skipper a few weeks later.
“When I decided to leave the T20I captaincy and approached the BCCI about my decision, it was received well,” Kohli told the media on December 15. “There was no offence or hesitation, I wasn’t told to reconsider it. It was received well. I was told it’s progressive and it’s a step in the right direction.
“Then I told them I’d like to continue in Tests and ODIs, unless the office bearers and selectors feel otherwise. My communication was clear in what I wanted to do. I gave them the option, that if they feel I shouldn’t , the decision is in their hands.”
Virat Kohli had said as much in his statement announcing his decision to quit the T20 captaincy. He did want to lead India in the other two formats but that call was taken away from him.
Now, there are two versions to what really happened and what transpired leading to the sack.
Sourav Ganguly, one of India’s most respected captains, taught his teams how to fight overseas and take on the big bullies of world cricket. Dadagiri in Indian cricket is part of folklore. More than a decade after his retirement from international cricket, Ganguly as BCCI president is writing another legacy. How that reads at the end of his tenure is another matter.
Virat Kohli has directly taken on the board president with his sensational claims. There is clear contradiction. While Ganguly insists he asked Kohli to stay on as T20 captain, Kohli said he was never asked to reconsider his decision and he was in fact told it was a progressive move.
To cut a long story short, either of Ganguly or Kohli is speaking the truth. Hours after Kohli’s comments created a stir, a BCCI official told India Today the Test captain was indeed kept in the loop.
“We spoke to Virat Kohli in September and asked him not to quit the T20I captaincy. Once Virat gave up the T20I captaincy on his own, it was difficult to have two white ball captains.
“Chetan Sharma (chairman of selectors) informed Virat about (his removal as) ODI captaincy on the morning of the meeting,” the source further went on to say.
An official clarification from BCCI is a matter of time now but this was a needless controversy.
By the end of the press conference, Virat Kohli had clearly established that his problems did not rest with Rohit Sharma or within the team.
The issue now appears to be one between India’s captain and board president.
Two of India’s biggest cricketers from different eras taking each other head-on is not good news. Will the truth ever come out? Or will there be constant back and forth of facts?