Kohli will come under intense scrutiny

The manner in which he forced Kumble out lacked finesse and timing.

Virat Kohli has ignored the collective wisdom of four stalwarts of Indian cricket.   -  AP

 

Just as India and host West Indies gear up for a five-match ODI series, commencing at Trinidad’s Port of Spain on Friday, Virat Kohli steps in with the turbulence of having played a hand in the exit of head coach Anil Kumble. It is not an ideal situation for a young captain, but Kohli’s predicament is self-imposed.

The present backdrop is different to the ones that tailed him in his earlier visits to the Caribbean, where the focus was on Kohli, the Test debutant in 2011, and Kohli, the skipper and established batsman in 2016.

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In 2011, he had a below-par series with scores of 4, 15, 0, 27 and 30, but when he returned in 2016, the metamorphosis was remarkable. He was, by a mile, the team’s No. 1 batsman — he still is — and had the additional honour of being the captain. Kohli surely had a sense of the occasion and in the first Test at Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, he charmed the legend, after whom the venue was named, with his maiden double hundred.

Talent and halo

India won the four-Test series 2-0 and Kohli seemingly could do no wrong; such was his talent, such was his halo. It was also a series in which he linked up with Kumble, who was in his maiden stint as head coach.

In less than a year, what could have been an ideal bond between two strong-willed men with a common desire to carve out victories for India, has turned into a mirage. To make it worse, Kohli’s fervent denials about his then alleged reservations against Kumble, during the recent ICC Champions Trophy in England, showed him in poor light.

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“There are no issues whatsoever,” he said before the game against Pakistan at Birmingham. In a classic case of shooting the messenger, he made caustic remarks about the media: “A lot of people like to find rumours before the tournament. They are trying to do their job and get their livelihood.”

Ignoring collective wisdom

With Kumble’s explanatory note on Twitter puncturing holes in Kohli’s all-is-well-in-the-dressing-room stand in England, the accepted narrative is that the captain scuttled the coach’s tenure. In taking on Kumble and sidestepping the Cricket Advisory Committee’s (Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman) recommendation that the head coach be granted an extension, the India skipper has ignored the collective wisdom of four gentlemen, with their cumulative weight of achievements in the international arena — 67,495 runs and 1,291 wickets. Surely, these are men who know their cricket.

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Kohli has also broken ranks with what has been referred to as Indian cricket’s ‘golden generation’. Every captain tries to forge an image of his team and attempts to carve out an identity for himself. Kohli is no exception, but the manner in which he forced Kumble out is a move that lacked finesse and timing, the hallmarks that are associated with his batting.

Having marked his territory and made it obvious that his is the last word both on and off the field, Kohli, the captain and batsman, will come under intense scrutiny. His performance, and the team’s, will be dissected and whoever the new coach is, he will have a lot to handle. With sections of the BCCI equally culpable in letting the bad blood linger, Kohli, and by extension Indian cricket, are in for a testing phase.