Kohli said no to farewell Test as captain: BCCI sources
- His 100th Test in Bengaluru could have been his final game as skipper if he had agreed to the offer by a senior cricket board official.
If Virat Kohli had wanted, he could have quit as Test captain amid fanfare, after celebrating his 100th Test in Bengaluru, his IPL home, against Sri Lanka in late February. A senior BCCI official offered a farewell match as captain to Kohli and a gala in Bengaluru during a phone call on Friday when he conveyed the decision to step down. Kohli refused. “One match makes no difference. That’s not how I am,” he is known to have said.
That meant Kohli’s highly successful stint as Test skipper ended with defeat, which has also resulted in a series loss. His predecessor, MS Dhoni, called an end to Test captaincy and career after a draw in the 2014 Melbourne Test, after playing 90 matches.
Dhoni is one of the two people Kohli thanked in Saturday’s tweet announcing his resignation. “A big thank you to MS Dhoni who believed in me as a Captain and found me to be an able individual who could take Indian Cricket forward,” he said.
Before making his decision public, Kohli spoke with head coach Rahul Dravid, his team mates in the dressing room at Newlands cricket ground, and then to BCCI. Kohli is known to be bitterly disappointed with the lost opportunity of beating South Africa despite taking the series lead. While BCCI was happy to offer another series for Kohli to lead, it is learnt he wanted to give up the pressures and responsibilities that come as captain to focus on batting.
Kohli who scored two blazing hundreds on debut as Test captain in Adelaide seven years back, was searching for form in his final match as captain, playing two important but laborious knocks at Cape Town. Kohli has averaged 28.14 since January, 2020.
“I have always believed in giving my 120 per cent in everything I do, and if I can’t do that, I know it’s not the right thing to do. I have absolute clarity in my heart and I cannot be dishonest to my team,” Kohli said in tweet.
In a span of three months, India’s all-powerful, all-format captain will return to being only a player.
NO HURRY TO REPLACE
BCCI is known to be in no hurry to announce Kohli’s successor. A call would only be taken closer to the Sri Lanka Test series next month. Those under consideration are Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. While Sharma is the designated vice-captain, the national selectors, it is learnt, would give the nod only if they are convinced his body can take the workload of leading across formats.
India has a heavy schedule, home and away, across formats in the next two years. It includes the T20 World Cup in October and the race to qualify for the 2023 World Test Championship final, followed by the ODI World Cup in India. KL Rahul is seen as the long-term alternative to rebuild the Test team, which is set for changes in batting.
A final decision will be taken in the coming weeks. Rahul and Sharma will both be in action. Rahul will lead India in the three-match ODI series in South Africa starting on Wednesday. Sharma is expected to regain fitness to lead in the home ODI series against West Indies, starting on February 6.
Sharma’s hamstring injury, after replacing Ajinkya Rahane as Test vice-captain, ruled him out of the South Africa tour. It is known to have forced the selectors to have a long hard look at his fitness levels and workload. Sharma’s left hamstring injury had also prevented him from playing in all the matches in the 2020 IPL, followed by the limited-overs series in Australia and the first two Tests there.