Unintentionally or otherwise, Kohli exposed the massive failure in BCCI’s communication mechanism

Virat Kohli’s pre–South African tour press conference on Wednesday (December 15) brought an end to a difficult week in Indian cricket. It was inevitable that much of it would focus on the significance and manner of his dismissal as ODI captain, with the upcoming trip to the Proteas serving as a subtext.

Kohli remained calm, courteous, and controlled in the face of considerable irritation during the quarter-hour exchange, which, predictably, focused on the ODI format. When and how was he informed, for example, that he had been replaced as the 50-over captain by Rohit Sharma? Did the BCCI president, Sourav Ganguly, advise him not to give up the T20I captaincy as early as September? Did the former India captain and the selection committee’s head, Chetan Sharma, speak to him about the logic behind bringing Rohit, the designated T20I captain, onboard as the ODI captain as well? Was Kohli intending to skip the three-match 50-over series in South Africa to spend time with his family,’ according to a story in one of India’s main national newspapers?

Only the most naive or ignorant would assume Kohli would have been caught off guard by this line of questioning. After all, the 33-year-old is about to enter his seventh year as Test captain and has been in charge of white-ball affairs since January 2017 until stepping down as T20I captain at the end of the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates last month. In a world of innuendo, half-truths, and handy non-truths, he isn’t immune to the enormous interest in Indian cricket’s behind-the-scenes interludes, many of which are either figments of the imagination or mired in mystery and intrigue, with reality a virtual casualty.

Kohli was as forthright as he could be without upsetting anyone. He emphasized that his decision to step down as T20I captain was well received and met with no opposition when he informed the Board of Control for Cricket in India of his choice. He essentially called Ganguly’s bluff. After all, as soon as Rohit was named Kohli’s 50-over successor, he went out of his way to stress out that the BCCI had begged Kohli not to relinquish the 20-over kingdom, only for their plea to be ignored.

Not satisfied with that admission, Ganguly went on to say that he and Chetan had both phoned Kohli to explain why he had been replaced as ODI captain. Having two white-ball captains would be ‘too much leadership,’ according to Ganguly. That made sense, because white-ball teams need to have the same ‘culture,’ even though the 50-over and T20 formats are as different as chalk and cheese in Indian cricket. What doesn’t make sense is the web of intrigue that the BCCI appears to have entangled itself in, and from which it hasn’t even sought to free itself, more than 20 hours after Kohli’s emotional yet calm news conference.

Kohli is without a doubt one of India’s most successful limited-overs captains. In T20Is, he has a success rate of 65 per cent, and in 95 ODIs, he has a success rate of 70 per cent or higher. Those are amazing figures in a cricketing terrain populated by three diverse landscapes that India is anticipated to cross frequently and successfully because of their salability. Kohli, on the other hand, has come short of leading the team to the Promised Land — a highly wanted global title. Given the requirement for consistency across white-ball formats, he should have known that once he announced his desire to give up the T20I captaincy, he would be deprived of the 50-over leadership job as well, especially with World Cups in both formats coming up in the next two years.

Few people have considered the benefits of having a single white-ball captain. In recent days, the major question has been whether Kohli’s dismissal as the 50-over skipper should have been handled with more empathy, respect, and decency. The response is a resounding ‘yes.’