Battle of the Crown in Cricket

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“Kohli’s announcement to step down as Twenty20 captain surprised everyone, will he continue to play just as a player like Tendulkar”

One who has a crown on his head, he can never live in peace. Indian cricket is a very good example of this. A new chapter was added to this when Virat Kohli announced to step down as the captain of the Indian Twenty20 team after the ICC World Cup Twenty20 to be played in October-November. When Kohli announced this after the end of the England series in early September, even the big stars of the cricket world were stunned. His surprise increased when Kohli also announced to step down as the captain of the Royal Challengers Bangalore team after the ongoing IPL ended on October 17. Both these announcements are being seen to be linked to ‘workload’, but the story behind what is seen is definitely very different from that.

In the IPL tournament, the match played between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians at the Dubai International Stadium on 26 September was different from the normal matches of the world’s richest Twenty20 tournament. It was being seen as two ‘boss fight’. In this, Kohli was up against Rohit Sharma, under whose leadership Mumbai Indians have won the tournament a record five times. After the World Cup, there is talk of handing over the captaincy of India’s Twenty20 team to Rohit Sharma.

Kohli is aggressive in nature and looks very excited before any match. This gesture of his is visible from leaving the hotel room to reaching the stadium. The way he warms up before the match and inspects the pitch, it seems that he is not ready to give even an inch of land to the competing team. Even on Sunday, 26 September, Kohli was over-excited. There was a toss between the two captains. Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma won the toss and asked the Royal Challengers Bangalore team to bat first. On this, Kohli saw Rohit Sharma rolling his eyes and headed towards the dressing room.

The match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians was also being looked at from the perspective of who is the better captain in Twenty20. Kohli needs to prove himself in this sense, as he has not been able to win the IPL trophy even once after getting the captaincy of the Bengaluru team in 2013. Now that he has announced his decision to step down as the captain of the Indian Twenty20 team, his potential as captain will be judged in every match to come.

Critics have repeatedly questioned Kohli’s captaincy ability in limited overs matches, so there is reason for this. Not only IPL, India has also failed to win the ICC trophy under his captaincy. While his mentor Mahendra Singh Dhoni has done so. However, in that match of 26 September, Bengaluru’s team registered their biggest win of 54 runs over Mumbai Indians. In that, the contribution of Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and pacer Harshal Patel was crucial, who took a hat-trick. Kohli’s team has defeated the previous champions in the second consecutive match of this season of IPL.

Such a small thing can only be a consolation prize for Virat Kohli, as his record in white-ball cricket is not the same as that of Dhoni or Rohit Sharma. Dhoni’s appointment as a mentor for the Twenty20 World Cup is a clear indication that Kohli needs coaching for the big game. How retired Dhoni will help by sitting in the dressing room, remains to be seen. Kohli may not agree with this, but the form of the player, who has been compared with the great Sachin Tendulkar, has been a matter of concern in the last two seasons. The speed with which Kohli scored 70 centuries in international matches looked like he would easily break Tendulkar’s record of 100 international hundreds. But after that there is not a single century in his account for two years. So it will obviously take longer for Kohli to reach that milestone of Tendulkar.

Kohli’s absolute dominance in all three formats of cricket is also in danger. As far as leadership is concerned, Kohli will be competing against Rohit Sharma. The Mumbai batsman has proved that he can play well in all three formats of the game and can play the role of a permanent opener in Tests, ODIs and Twenty20. In the last two years, Rohit’s record has been better than Kohli’s. Even in the recent challenging tour of England, Rohit Sharma showed that he is capable of handling seam and swing. At a time when India’s top-order batsmen, including Kohli, were being demolished in front of England’s fast bowlers, Rohit Sharma set foot and scored 127 runs in the Oval Test. Thanks to his innings, India could defeat England for the second time after 1971 at The Oval. That was the fourth test match between India and England. Before that, in the second Test played at Lord’s, Rohit scored 83 runs. He scored these runs from 145 balls, which shows that the batsman has a professional temperament and technique of the best standard.

In contrast, Kohli does not have a single century to his name in the last two years. He last scored a century in November 2019 against Bangladesh in the Pink Ball Test played in Kolkata. He scored 136 runs in that match. He failed to convert fifties into centuries twice in the recent England series, which shows that the pressure is starting to take hold on him. Rohit’s performance in Tests and ODIs is better than Kohli in the last two years. Since January 2020, Rohit has scored 906 runs in 11 Test matches at an average of 47.68. It includes two centuries. During this, Kohli scored 563 runs in 12 Test matches at an average of 26.80. He doesn’t even have a century to his name. Same is the story of ODIs. Rohit scored 519 runs in nine matches at an average of 57.66, with two hundreds. Comparatively, Kohli’s figures are light. He scored 649 runs in 15 matches at an average of 43.26 without any century.

People may say that rankings don’t matter and statistics are only for statisticians, but every international player has their own interests. At a time when every performance is viewed by managers and agents as money, it is imperative that the player’s form remains consistent as every run will bring him some financial gain. For a player like Virat Kohli, not getting a century for two years is a matter of great concern. Not just from the cricket point of view, but also from the brand value point of view.

Kohli will turn 33 on November 5. It needs to be kept in mind here that many top level players like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh have suffered physical problems after the age of 30. Considering the amount of cricket Indian cricketers play throughout the year, this burnout is not unexpected. Kohli is one of the fittest cricketers in the world and cannot afford to be sidelined due to burnout or injury. Recently, Kohli has invested in a wellness startup Hyperice. He has also been made its global ambassador, so that it can be easily marketed in India. This puts Kohli among the elite athlete-investor category such as tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka (highest paid female athlete), NBA star Jaa Morant and PGA Tour champion Ricky Fowler. Kohli’s net worth is Rs 638 crore. This net worth is built on the fact that he is one of the best batsmen in the world and his image is that of an aggressive and confident player.

But Kohli is not Tendulkar. not till now. Little Master is the richest cricketer in the world right now. His net worth is Rs 1090 crores. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is second with Rs 767 crore and Kohli is at number three. This valuation is also dependent on how long the cricket life of these players has been. Tendulkar’s career spanned about 25 years and during this time he received the title of ‘Lord of Cricket’. But like his coverdrive, he also knew when to give up the captaincy. Tendulkar left the captaincy of the Indian team twice. He was made the captain in 1996 and 1999, but was forced to step down due to the poor performance of the team on both the occasions.

Tendulkar led India in 25 Test matches. Of these, only four Tests were won and nine were lost, 12 matches being inconclusive. Tendulkar captained the Indian team in 73 ODIs while winning just 23. Tendulkar could never win the IPL trophy as the captain of Mumbai Indians. He later revealed that he had decided to step down from the captaincy as his personal life was affected.

He had said, “It started affecting me personally. Every defeat started hurting me on and off the field as well. Even when I was with my family, I used to constantly think about the same defeat. I have always tried and given my best. Yet we lost matches that we should have won. Those matches were frustrating and I was hurt. I used to get upset thinking that the matches which were in our pocket were also taken away from us.

The Indian team under Tendulkar may not have done well, 1996 to 2000 was a very good time for the Little Master. During this, he scored 39 international centuries, of which 13 were as captain. After relinquishing the captaincy, Tendulkar played cricket for 13 years. During this he scored 49 centuries, in 27 Test matches and 22 in ODIs.

According to Madanlal, former all-rounder who coached the Indian team during 1996-97, Tendulkar used to get so engrossed in his game that he failed as captain. He had said, “I do not agree with you that he was not a good captain, but he was so busy with his performance that it became difficult for him to watch the team. As a captain, you not only have to focus on your performance, but you also have to perform better than the rest of the 10 players in the team. It’s very important how you manage them.”

Sourav Ganguly’s career affected due to bad relationship with coach Greg Chappell

Kohli’s future could be the same. If they want to be like Tendulkar, managing the workload is very important. Relinquishing the captaincy of Twenty20 is perhaps the first step in that direction. And why shouldn’t they do it? Kohli is a fan of Test cricket. He can have two goals – an average of 100 or 100 international hundreds. Even Don Bradman could not achieve an average of 100, but like Tendulkar, it would not be impossible for Kohli to score a century.

Two years ago, Kohli had scored 70 international hundreds, one less than Ricky Ponting, before centuries were put on hold. Not being able to score a single century for two years at the peak of his career means that Kohli has five to six years to score a century. Provided he is fit to play Tests and ODIs, he does not suffer any injuries and the selectors give him a chance. In the last days of his career, when Tendulkar was no longer in form, he got a lot of support from the selectors. Tendulkar scored 74 in his last innings against West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium in November 2013. He scored the last century (146) against South Africa in Cape Town in January 2011.

Rohit Sharma’s career may be better in the coming days, but Virat Kohli will be India’s main batsman in international cricket (Test and ODI). The captaincy of India’s Twenty20 team should be easily given to Rohit, but even this 34-year-old player is no longer young. Rohit has been injured frequently and it will be challenging for him to maintain fitness. Despite this, the Mumbai Indians captain is clearly ahead in the white-ball game. But Kohli will not be bothered about this. His focus will be on Tests and ODIs, where the chances of scoring a century will be high. To match Tendulkar, Kohli would have to score at least six hundreds every year for the next five years, which is quite a challenge. In a Star Sports show, legendary Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar gave his choice on the next captain and vice-captain of Team India, “Rohit Sharma should be made the captain for the next two World Cups. Both the World Cups are one after the other. The first is going to happen within a month and the second after a year. So at this crucial juncture you don’t want to change the captain again and again. Rohit Sharma will be my choice as the captain of the Indian team for both these Twenty20 World Cups. As vice-captain, I am K.L. I would like to see Rahul. I will also keep Rishabh Pant in mind, as he has led a Delhi team full of star players. The way he changed his bowling with bowlers like Norje and Rabada makes him smart. You need such a smart captain to read the situation and take quick decisions. So as vice-captain, I will be eyeing Rahul and Pant.”

Gavaskar’s relationship with Kapil Dev also deteriorated.

During the next two years, India’s international match calendar was filled with Twenty20. The Twenty20 World Cup will be held in Australia in October-November 2022. (Tournament postponed by one year due to Kovid) Apart from this, India has to play seven Tests, six ODIs and more than 20 Twenty20 matches. At least 18 matches will be played in the ten-team IPL tournament. Not only would Kohli love to play as a batsman, he would also like to lead India in the 50-over World Cup tournament in 2023. But for this it is necessary that everything is in his favor and his form is good enough that both the selectors and the fans can rely on him.

A good equation between the captain, senior players and the head coach is essential for any team to grow and flourish. Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly had problems with their coaches. Ganguly’s career was affected due to a bad relationship with coach Greg Chappell. Kapil Dev was made the head coach during Tendulkar’s captaincy. Tendulkar was always apprehensive about how his teammates would play.

In his autobiography Playing It My Way, Tendulkar wrote why he was disappointed with Kapil Dev during his tour of Australia from November 1999–January 2000. In the chapter Tumultus Times (time of turmoil) he wrote, “When I became the captain for the second time, Kapildev was our coach. He is one of the best cricketers to have played for India and also the greatest all-rounder of all time. I had high hopes from him in Australia.”

He further wrote, “I have always believed that the role of a coach is very important. He plays a vital role in making strategy for the team. During a tough tour of Australia, who better than Kapil Dev, who would have brought me all the options. But his way of thinking was different. How to run the team, he left it entirely to the captain. That’s why he didn’t participate in any strategic discussions with us that would benefit us on the field.”

Shastri was given responsibility after removing Anil Kumble from the post of coach

After Ravi Shastri, Kohli will have to build good relations with the new coach. If Anil Kumble is the new coach then there could be problems. It was because of Kohli that Anil Kumble stepped down as the head coach after the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy in England. Four years ago, Kohli also came down heavily on the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators and was successful in getting Ravi Shastri to be the head coach. Despite the support of the BCCI Cricket Advisory Committee, Kumble’s innings as coach lasted only a year. In his resignation letter, he expressed surprise, “I was told that Kohli had objections to my style. Professional attitude, discipline, commitment, honesty and differing views are the things I put forward. It is important to give importance to these things for better coordination between the players. I think the role of the coach is to show the mirror so that the players can improve themselves in the interest of the team. Clearly, this is a curious time for Indian cricket. Rohit Sharma may be waiting for his turn, only Virat Kohli will remain in the headlines.

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