Leaving the BCCI red-faced ahead of the Indian team’s big-ticket tour to South Africa, skipper Virat Kohli Wednesday openly contradicted board president Sourav Ganguly’s version of events behind the T20 International captaincy change in October, saying no one had asked him to stay back in the position once he decided to quit due to workload issues.
Speaking to reporters during the pre-tour press conference, Kohli also said that he came to know about his subsequent removal as ODI captain “one-and-a-half hours before the selection meeting” on December 8 for the Test series.
Dismissing reports that he would opt out of the ODI leg of the South Africa tour, the Test captain threw his weight behind newly appointed limited-overs skipper Rohit Sharma and ruled out any discord between them.
“Before quitting the T20I captaincy, I had approached the BCCI and explained the reasons behind my decision. That was received very well. There was no offence or hesitation. Mujhe yeh nahin kaha gaya tha ki aap T20 captaincy na chodiye (I wasn’t told not to relinquish the T20 captaincy). Rather, it was taken as a progressive step, in the right direction. I communicated at that time that I would like to continue as Test and ODI captain unless the office-bearers and the selectors felt that I shouldn’t carry on with this responsibility. My communication (to the BCCI) was clear,” Kohli said.
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 15, 2021
On December 9, former India captain Ganguly had told The Indian Express: “We (BCCI) had requested Virat not to step down as T20I captain. There was no plan to change captaincy. But he stepped down as T20I captain and the selectors decided not to split limited-overs captaincy, opting for a complete separation.”
Referring to the BCCI’s decision to hand the reign of the T20I and ODI captaincy to Rohit Sharma, Ganguly had said: “Bottom line is that there can’t be two white-ball captains.”
On the day of the ODI captaincy announcement, a top BCCI official had told The Indian Express that there was no communication with Kohli about the change.
All eyes on aftermath
Virat Kohli has for the first time made his displeasure known at the way in which the change in captaincy has been handled by the BCCI and selectors. His remarks come at a time when the team is embarking on a tough tour to South Africa. All eyes will now be on how the Test captain’s comments impact the mood and spirit inside the dressing room.
At the press conference Wednesday, Kohli said: “Whatever was said about the communication that happened during the decision that was made was inaccurate. I was contacted one-and-a-half hours before the selection meeting on the 8th for the Test series.”
He said: “There was no prior communication to me at all since I announced the T20 captaincy decision up till the 8th of December, where I got a call before the selection meeting. The chief selector (Chetan Sharma) discussed with me the Test team, to which we both agreed. And before ending the call, I was told that the five selectors have decided I will not be the ODI captain, to which I replied, ‘okay, fine’. And in the selection call afterwards, we chatted about it briefly and that’s what happened. There was no communication prior to that at all.”
This isn’t the first time over the past few months that the 33-year-old’s comments have rattled the board. After India’s defeat to Pakistan at the T20 World Cup in October, when Mohammed Shami faced abuse on social media over his religion, the skipper publicly defended the fast bowler even as the BCCI kept silent.
“To me, attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing that a human being can do. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion over what they feel about a certain situation, but I personally have never ever even thought of discriminating (against) anyone over their religion. That’s a very sacred and personal thing to every human being,” Kohli had said.
Virat responds to the abuse faced by Shami:
— Sight Screen Cricket Journal (@SightScreenCJ) October 30, 2021
Speaking Wednesday about the South Africa series, Kohli confirmed his availability for the three ODIs that follow the three-Test series starting December 26. “I was and I am available for selection all this time. You shouldn’t ask me this question, honestly. This question should be asked to people who are writing about these things and their sources because as far as I’m concerned, I was always available. I haven’t had any communication with the BCCI to say that I want to rest,” he said.
Dismissing speculation of a dressing room rift, Kohli said: “No problem between me and Rohit. I have grown tired explaining that over the last two-and-a-half years. Rohit is a very able captain. Tactically very sound. And Rahul bhai (Dravid) is a great man-manager.”
Kohli said he has accepted the BCCI’s decision to remove him from ODI captaincy. “BCCI took the decision from a logical point of view. I can understand that. We didn’t win an ICC trophy,” said the Test skipper. Offering his “absolute support” to the ODI team, he said: “None of my actions would be to degrade Indian cricket, as long as I am playing the game.”
The BCCI has not responded to Kohli’s latest remarks.
Goals & excitement 👍
Working with Rahul Dravid 👌@imVkohli‘s legacy as India’s white-ball captain 👏#TeamIndia‘s new white-ball captain @ImRo45 discusses it all in this special feature for https://t.co/Z3MPyesSeZ 👍 👍
Watch the full interview 🎥 🔽https://t.co/JVS0Qff905 pic.twitter.com/kFlqZxWh5t
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 13, 2021
After years of smooth transitions, the BCCI sprang a surprise in its press release to announce the Test squad for the South Africa series. The last line in that release read: “The All-India Senior Selection Committee also decided to name Mr Rohit Sharma as the Captain of the ODI & T20I teams going forward.”
Facing a backlash online — Kohli has 45.3 million followers on Twitter — the board responded with a “Thank you Captain” tweet.
Ironically, Ganguly was at the receiving end of the last major leadership controversy in Indian cricket. In 200, his captaincy was taken away in acrimonious circumstances after the then coach Greg Chappell demanded a change. Ganguly was replaced with Dravid.