MUMBAI: As he looks to close one chapter in his life, Virat Kohli has largely received a big thumbs-up from those who’ve worked with him closely. Two former India chief selectors whom TOI spoke to lauded India skipper Kohli’s decision to quit the T20I captaincy after the World Cup in UAE next month, even as one ex-selector, whose committee appointed him as the India captain, expressed surprise and “shock” at the timing of the cricket superstar’s decision.
Kohli’s announcement on Thursday evening left many stumped, but former India skipper and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar, who first picked him to play for India for the limited overs tour of Sri Lanka back in 2008, was anticipating this ‘bouncer’ from the 32-year-old. “I was expecting it. He’s been leading India and has been the No 1 batsman in all formats for almost eight years. He’s been under tremendous pressure to perform, because we expect a lot from him every time he goes into bat. Besides that, he’s not done exceptionally well in the T20 format as captain. Even in the IPL, he hasn’t led the Royal Challengers Bangalore to a single tournament win. That must’ve played on his mind too,” Vengsarkar told TOI.
“The timing of his decision has been perfect. The only thing I hope now is he wins the World Cup and signs off as an India T20 captain on a high. It could be his last hurrah as T20I captain,” stated Vengsarkar.
The former captain was also thrilled that he is focusing more on Tests. “Compared to Test cricket, T20 is an inconsequential format,” felt Vengsarkar.
“I welcome Virat’s step. Captaincy does play on your mind. Captaining the side and concentrating on your batting at the same time is not an easy job, especially as there’s so much cricket these days. This step will 100% help him focus more on his batting,” felt India’s 1983 World Cup hero and former chief selector Sandeep Patil.
However, Patil pointed out that Kohli and the BCCI don’t seem to be on the same page these days. “It seems that there’s a big communication gap between BCCI and Virat. You can’t have Virat say one thing and the BCCI another. Just a couple of days back, there was a story in TOI about him quitting as a white-ball captain to focus on his batting. However, the BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal rubbished that news quickly. This is purely Virat’s decision, and the BCCI should just accept it,” stressed Patil.
Like most fans, both Patil and Vengsarkar feel that star opener Rohit Sharma is now ready to take over the India captaincy from Kohli in the game’s shortest format. “Rohit deserves to be India’s next T20 captain because he’s done exceptionally well whenever he’s been given an opportunity. In 2018, India won the Asia Cup under his captaincy. Besides that, he’s been an exceptional captain for the Mumbai Indians,” recommended Vengsarkar.
“Rohit (Sharma) has done a great job while leading the Mumbai Indians. I feel that he’s a fit choice to replace Virat as the India T20 captain. Rohit has proved his mettle,” Patil agreed.
Former India off-spinner and ex-national selector Sarandeep Singh, though, feels that the choice of India’s next T20 captain could be an interesting question for the Chetan Sharma-led national selection committee. “The big question in front of them is that do they go for someone like Rohit, while keeping the next T20 World Cup in 2022 in mind, or do they go for someone younger, who’s playing in all formats of the game, like KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant. The selectors need to take that call,” he pointed out.
Sarandeep wasn’t too convinced about the timing of Kohli’s stunning call. “I had an inkling about it, but I didn’t know that he would quit the T20 captaincy before the T20 World Cup. He could have quit the captaincy when the team was being picked for the T20 World Cup.
“Will he even play in the next T20 World Cup in 2022? Perhaps the selectors should speak to him about reconsidering his decision,” said Sarandeep.