'If Virat Kohli has decided to sit at home…': Dale Steyn's lesson in 'priority' | Cricket - Hindustan Times

'If Virat Kohli has decided to sit at home…': Dale Steyn's lesson in 'priority' as India star opts out of England Tests

By, New Delhi
Feb 10, 2024 11:05 AM IST

Former South Africa pacer Dale Steyn has reacted to Virat Kohli's absence as the India star on Saturday withdrew from the entire Test series against England.

It's official. Virat Kohli will not play any part in the Test series against England, and Dale Steyn, one of his fiercest rivals on the field, has backed and respected the star India cricketer's decision to be with family. Kohli, expected to miss only the first two Tests, is now out of it entirely, leading to nationwide speculation. After brother Vikas quashed 'false news' around his mother's health being the reason behind Kohli's absence, AB de Villiers' revelation that Kohli was expecting his second child seemed to have answered the burning question. However, with de Villiers retracting yesterday, the suspense meter stands raging hot.

On Virat Kohli's absence, Dale Steyn says 'nothing comes above family' (PTI-Getty)
On Virat Kohli's absence, Dale Steyn says 'nothing comes above family' (PTI-Getty)

Amid this, fans have stood divided over Kohli's call. While some are pondering what led their superstar to miss a series of such magnitude, Kohli has had no lack of support from his peers, Steyn being one of them. The South African great stands right next to Kohli in these challenging times and reckons everything else, including cricket, takes a backseat when it comes to family.

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"Family is your most important priority. Sorry, that's it. That's the end of the story right there. I've got three dogs and when one of them got sick, I was out of the IPL. I was jumping on the plane out of there to come back and see my dog. So that's my family. If Virat Kohli has decided to sit back home because he wants to be with his wife, if he's going to have his second child, I don't see any problem with that. He's been a servant of India for many years. He's won a World Cup; he's captained with success. I don't know what more a man can do to prove himself in the cricketing world," Steyn, bowling coach of Sunrisers Eastern Cape, said ahead of the team's SA20 Season 2 final against the Durban Super Giants, told Hindustan Times.

Also Read: AB de Villiers apologises, makes shocking U-turn on Virat Kohli's second child revelation

There has been absolutely no movement at Kohli's end. He has been laying low on Instagram, all the more reason why his hugely popular fanbase is worried. People have prayed for his well-being on X, Facebook, Instagram… and you can't really blame them. Even during the birth of his first child, it was a known that he would be returning home after playing the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia, but the fact that he mysteriously disappeared – leaving Hyderabad the same day as he landed – with BCCI dropping a bomb of his withdrawal two days before the start of the 1st Test indicates that things could be a lot more serious than earlier imagined. Don't forget this is the same guy who lost his father and showed up for his team the next day to play a match-saving knock.

The writing was on the wall though. Last month, Kohli, initially part of India's three-T20I squad against Afghanistan, was again not available for the series opener – the development confirmed to the public on the eve of the match. Prior to it, Kohli had not featured for India in over a month, being rested for the Australia T20Is and the limited-overs led of the South African tour. He made his much-awaited comeback in the two-Test series against the Proteas, looking like a billion dollars and was set to face England before emergency hit. Ever since, it's been all quiet - a report in between stated that Kohli isn't even in the country, apparently London. But in the early hours of Saturday, the BCCI put all the rumours to rest when it announced India's squad for the Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamsala Tests, and stated 'Virat Kohli will remain unavailable for selection for the remainder of the series due to personal reasons'.

'In such times, cricket doesn't matter'

At first, Steyn wasn't aware of his former South Africa teammate De Villiers' U-turn, but when he did, the pacer decided not to address him and instead channelled his focus on Kohli. Steyn, de Villiers and Kohli share a close bond – Virat and ABD being as close as brothers. The trio were teammates at the Royal Challengers Bangalore, sharing the locker room for two seasons, which further solidified their bond, and in these testing times, Steyn stands behind Kohli like a rock.

"I think at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter about cricket. What matters is why you're playing and who helped you get there. The people behind you or behind the scenes, are the ones the public doesn't see. Your partner, your mother, your wife, your sister… those are the people that are constantly picking you up and if it means that their health is in jeopardy or something is wrong with them, you go to them and that's the most important thing," pointed out Steyn.

For those questioning Kohli's decisions and hurling baseless allegations under the guise of 'national duty' – and no true Viratian claiming to be his fan would go to such lengths – the message cannot be more crystal clear. It's none of your business. If cricket is being introduced at the Olympics because of Kohli, that's a national duty he has served. If the ICC Cricketer of the Decade has belonged to Kohli, that's a national duty he has served. If at 30, Kohli was already called a legend, that… is a national duty. And if because of him, more youngsters are finding their calling in cricket around the world, that… is national duty.

Kohli is India's icon, but that doesn't mean you're allowed to dissect his life.

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    Aditya Bhattacharya is an experienced online sports journalist with a forte in cricket. He has covered the 2016 ICC World T20 in India, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England along with several Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare tournaments across the country. When not working, Aditya can be found either hooked to the PlayStation or sharpening the chords on a guitar, while straddling binge-watching and shadow-practicing like Ajay Devgn on two bikes.

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