Virat Kohli has resigned as captain from the wrong cricket code. On no account should he give up the captaincy of India’s T20 team. Given his current Triple A rating (Aggressive Accumulator with Attitude), it isn’t clear that he earns his place in that side. The Indian T20 team has more anchors than it needs and Kohli’s probably a drag on the run-rate.
But who cares? Asli T20 competition happens not in the World Cup but in the IPL which has the money, the talent and the needle. Bombay Desis or whatever it is that Mukesh Ambani’s team is called, would beat the Indian national team nine times out of ten.
The T20 World Cup doesn’t count as a test of skill. Any half-decent side has a shot at winning the title; unlike a long league competition like the IPL where teams play each other over and over again, there aren’t enough matches played in the World Cup to properly test the mettle of a side, to sort out the chancers from the genuine contenders.
But it’s the perfect setting for Kohli’s charisma. He’s made to be a mascot for the motherland – and what better platform than this championship to exult and outrage on. He gives the cameras something to do because it isn’t as if there’s serious cricket being played.
T20 World Cups are about tashan. Remember MS Dhoni walking up to the stumps after Misbah-ul-Haq was caught and the tournament won nearly fifteen years ago? He did that splendid take on the Sphinx. It was like he was auditioning for immortality and he got the part. Which is why Kohli has given himself one last shot at bagging that elusive unicorn, an ICC trophy. He knows what a great piece of theatre it’ll be if India wins in Dubai. If Kohli’s fielding at the time, he’ll do a Bezos leap right up to the Kármán line, leaving Stoneface Dhoni earthbound in his dust.
It’ll be particularly satisfying because Dhoni’s been given the mother-in-law role in this sequel to 2007. He’s been appointed ‘Mentor’ to remind Kohli, via simple bodily presence, that this is how ICC trophies are won. “I’ve been there; I mightn’t be up for the fight at my age, but I know how to do it, kyunki…” The BCCI knew that the only way of rescuing the T20 World Cup from total anti-climax after the IPL’s delayed denouement was by making it a multi-starrer – and that’s what it has done.
Kohli should stay captain of both white ball formats. It’s right that he plans to lead India’s ODI team indefinitely: he’s a great one-day batsman and it isn’t impossible that he’ll remain good enough to lead India into the next World Cup. And the ODI World Cup, unlike its 20-over counterpart, is, by default, the zenith of the 50-over game because there is no franchised ODI league (like the IPL) to overshadow it. If such a league existed, you’d have to call it the ODPL, which sounds like a complex, not a cricket tournament. No, the next ODI World Cup is the real deal. We need King Kohli leading us in blue.
What he needs to do is resign from India’s Test captaincy. Not because he isn’t worth his place in the side as a batsman – India’s current middle-order is on the verge of collective extinction, so it’s a low bar and he probably clears it-but just so that he can be replaced by R Ashwin as captain. Not because Ashwin will be a great captain or anything; just to make sure that he isn’t dropped from the team.
Ashwin is the greatest spin bowler in the world, arguably the greatest bowler currently playing. He’s certainly the greatest bowler in the world currently not playing. In the honour roll of cricketing immortals that hangs in the Long Room of the great beyond where Bradman sits watching every Test, Ashwin, the bowler, ranks higher than Kohli, the batsman. Ashwin is 34; I want to him to be an automatic selection for every Test India plays from here on. The only way that’ll happen in this insane world is if he’s made captain.
Kohli should resign the captaincy but stay in the team. In the perfect future, Ashwin is India’s Test captain and Kohli is in the squad for the next tour of England. In this scenario, Kohli isn’t struggling with his Test match batting; he arrives in England in 2023 in a rich vein of form, a couple of centuries in the last Test series, and several more scored over the past year and a half.
But because it’s an overcast summer and the Dukes ball is a given, Ashwin is forced, in the interest of the team, the balance of the side, and the need to win, to choose horses for courses. Given Kohli’s notorious uncertainty outside his off stump in English conditions against quality swing bowling (Anderson, 41, is still fronting the English attack), Ashwin drops Kohli, pushes Ajinkya Rahane up to 4 and gets Hanuma Vihari (grey, but game) to bat at 5…because he bowls a little.
Kohli, dashing in his squad bib, sits out five Tests on various dressing room balconies for the greater good of the team. Meanwhile, Ashwin Anna shows he’s up to the job by turning the air around the stump mic blue with audible obscenity, but is never fined because no one knows what he’s saying. We live happily ever after.
Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in Delhi. His most recent book is ‘Homeless on Google Earth’ (Permanent Black, 2013).
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