Whatever is happening off the field with Indian cricket is not cricket

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
We as cricket fans are aghast at whatever is happening with Indian cricket – handling of the cricketing leadership issue is leaving much to be desired. Serious differences between the viewpoints of star batsman Virat Kohli and BCCI president and former Indian cricket team captain and opener Saurav Ganguly over the leadership issue is the result of a communication gap that has developed over the past few months. This is something that the sport of cricket does not need.
As die-hard fans of the game and sport of cricket, I would, like crores of fellow citizens who worship the religion called cricket would wish and pray that better sense prevails and the team members bury their differences, if any, and get on with what they are supposed to be doing – play cricket and play good cricket.
Coming just ahead of India’s tour of South Africa, Virak Kohli’s remarks over the manner in which he was left out as the captain of one-day cricket team as well following Kohli’s decision to step down as the T20 team skipper.
Now, statements and counter-statements indicating a clear rift in the cricket team does not augur well for the sport in the country, especially when the team was under duress over the loss in the T20 World Cup help in UAE.
Much as the cricketing legends like Sunil Gavaskar and his team-mate in 1983 World Cup matches, Kirti Azad deny anything amiss in the La Affaire team leadership and the underlying tension in the dressing house and possible existence of groupism in the team, the ground reality appears to be worrisome to say the least.
Virat Kohli asserted that he was never asked to continue as the One Day captain, which ran contrary to the assertion of Ganguly that the BCCI had asked the former ODI captain to stay on. This clash between two super duper stars of Indian cricket for sure does not augur well for the sport as it is bound to cast its shadow on the team’s overall cohesion and affect its performance in the field, either at home or away.
While Kohli has come out all guns blazing, his outburst after he was relieved of the captaincy in one day matches has put the BCCI in an unenviable damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.
If the BCCI comes out in the open and says Kohli’s claims are not true, it would portray Kohli in a negative light that fans may not believe and accept, and if BCCI remains silent, it would appear that indeed it had treated one of the most successful Indian cricket captains shabbily.
Ganguly has at present tried to put the controversy to rest and said the BCCI will resolve the issue.
Notwithstanding the controversy generated by the differing statements from the two Indian cricket superstars – Kohli and Ganguly – the Indian cricket team left for the South African tour. Still continuing as the captain of the test team, Kohli is slated to lead the team in three test matches from December 26. While Rohit Sharma, ruled out of the test team due to a ham-string injury, would be likely leading the one-day side, if he gets fit in the meanwhile.
Conspiracy theorists see something of a major rift happening between the two cricket anchors of the team – Kohli and Rohit Shama – though officially everything is dismissed as the figment of imagination of few, and then there is a round of media bashing for spreading speculations when everything was fine. Even though Virat Kohli vehemently denies any rift, the controversy refuses to die down.
Now, if we are to believe cricket’s living legend Sunil Gavaskar, there was no issue of concern but admitted as much that the issue was mishandled and could have been avoided with better communication. To that extent, he would agree that the board could have handled the situation better. Gavaskar pulled out a controversy of his times that he and superstar all-rounder Kapil Dev were not getting along well and there used to be conspiracy theories bandied about in the media a lot. Now, after some two and half decades, it is getting proven that there never was any rift between the players as the media portrayed. On a private television channel discussion, Gavaskar sought to get away by blaming the media for the current controversy dogging the cricketing world. Today, the situation is not something that the media is reporting out of thin air. It was, in fact, another former Indian cricket skipper Mohammad Azharuddin kicked off the controversy by tweeting about a rift in the current cricket team that was visiting South Africa.
It was this tweet of Azharuddin “Virat Kohli has informed that he's not available for the ODI series & Rohit Sharma is unavailable fr d upcoming test. There is no harm in takin a break but d timing has to be better. This just substantiates speculation abt d rift. Neither wil be giving up d other form of cricket, that has raised a storm.
Following this there were statements galore from different players in the drama in the public domain that has firmed up the impression that all was not well within the Indian cricket team and perhaps it was time the leadership stepped in, to contain the situation from escalating further. Incidentally a picture BCCI tweeted from South Africa showed some members of the cricket team but the notable mission person was Kohli. Now, just a coincidence perhaps, but these are the kind of signals that lend to rumour mongering and must be quelled and nipped in the bud.
Cricketer turned politician, Kirti Azad, said if Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma do not play together, as it seems likely, it is the Indian team that would suffer.
All the players in the cricketing controversy would do well to heed to the advice of the person responsible for winning the first ODI World Cup for India, Kapil Dev, to focus on work on hand rather than waste energies and lose the sense of purpose.
Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country. He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer, and Hindustan Times. He can be reached on [email protected] and Twitter handle @kvlakshman