It is no small thing to be captain of your country. When that country is India, there is no bigger thing.
Unquestionably, captaincy is a responsibility that has grown over the years.
Where once a captain was simply that guy that moves the field and changes the bowlers for a handful of Test matches a year, they are now accountable for so much more.
A skipper may hold roles in the Test team, the ODI team, the national T20 team, various franchise T20 teams as well as for their State or County. On top of this, there’s dialogue with administrators over selection, there’s the non-stop media cycle, the full time training and recovery, the ridiculous amount of travel and then finding time for your family.
But that’s the job. A choice one makes. The answerables that one agrees to and commits to when they choose to be a professional cricketer. These answerables become heightened when one is elected captain.
But irrespective of the pressures, first and foremost, a captain’s duty is to their team.
No one accepts the role not knowing this.
It is crystal clear. Explicit. Implied. Overt.
Yet for some reason, Virat Kohli is making a habit of putting himself before the duties of his honorific.
Earlier this year, Afghanistan played its first ever Test match. A monumental occasion for both that emerging cricketing nation and for the sport as a whole. But Kohli didn’t care. His thoughts were elsewhere. Lost on the wonder of an upcoming English tour.
So Kohli withdrew his services for the Afghanistan match. Instead, he ran off to play some County cricket as a warm up to a series that was months away. However karma struck, he got injured and didn’t get to play those planned lead up games. But that is besides the point.
The captain had officially abandoned his ship.
Some argued at the time that this was a legitimate tactic from Kohli. The English tour is exponentially more important that a one-off Test against a minnow.
However, those that prosecute this line of thinking are missing the point.
Virat Kohli is the Indian Test captain. It is not a role where you can pick and choose when you want to be in it. He is the captain 100% of the time. Not just when he feels like it.
He should have played in that Afghanistan Test. He should have shown his new opponents a proper level of respect. More importantly, what message did it give his team mates and his fans?
Jumping forward to the present, and the Indian squad for the upcoming Asia Cup in the UAE has been announced. Kohli’s name is not there despite him being the current Indian ODI captain.
And why isn’t it there?
The official explanation is that he has been “rested”.
Rested from what?
The Asia Cup is a tournament that is all over in about two weeks. The most matches a team will play is 6.
That’s 600 overs of game time. Or the equivalent of 1 complete match plus 5 sessions of Test match cricket.
It is nothing that is unusual or over-burdensome or even slightly unreasonable.
It is normal.
For a professional player who is captain of the biggest team in the world, and paid a truck load of cash to do so, needing a rest from this appears to be the wrong call.
What compounds this awful decision from Kohli is that India and Pakistan are very likely to play each other at least twice. The biggest rivalry in world sports. Bigger than anything else you can think of. The global viewing audience will swamp the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals and possibly the FIFA World Cup Final.
But Kohli has said no.
He’s a little bit tired. Needs a rest. Best he prepares himself for whatever is more important than an international trophy where India plays Pakistan. Where a combined 2 billion people will watch their TV sets with eyes glued, hearts pounding and national pride on the line.
For the record, India’s next tour after this event in September is for a short tour to the West Indies and then New Zealand in November.
Like all cricketers, Kohli still gets plenty of time off. More than you are I get in our day jobs.
I’d give my left nut to have the same amount of time off as him. But apparently that’s not enough for Kohli.
His move screams of a man living in a narcissistic bubble who is receiving little to no advice on what’s important or right. That’s probably because his mentor is Ravi Shastri. A bloke who once investigated the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for corruption and concluded that they both had no case to answer.
Amazingly, the Supreme Court of India found otherwise and banned both teams for two years. Who would have thought?
Kohli is one of the fittest cricketers on the planet. He could possibly, in the right conditions, beat Misbah-ul-Haq in a push-up challenge.
Yet he has refused to face up to his duty as captain of the Indian ODI side. And that is unforgiveable.
If he doesn’t want to be captain all of the time, then he has no right to be captain at all. Give the title to somebody who will cherish it properly and put team before self in all instances.
Because right now, it just looks like he was scared of failing against Afghanistan and now he is scared of Amir bossing him around again in the UAE.