Maybe it was Nick Compton’s tweet that anticipated the current tide of questioning about captain Virat Kohli’s status, but the name of Ravichandran Ashwin now pops up every time cricket punctuates dinner-table or coffee- house conversations. It is generally perceived that Kohli’s giving up of his Twenty20 World Cup leadership after the next tournament cloaks a do-it-now-or-perish message from upstairs, not very long after criticism had reached a crescendo about the off-spinner being left out of all the Tests in England, with the captain unambiguously asserting his choice of someone he thought would bat better lower down.
That opened up another line in the same debate, given Ashwin’s Test and first-class batting records, but there was one thing about that kind of chinwagging: it never seemed to end. Heading for bed or home, combatants decide on grabbing the paper first thing in the morning for fresh ammunition, except that Kohli did not really have too many people backing him towards the premature end of the tour of England. The melodramatic, even distorted conclusion may have left him with fewer loyalists in the bargain too, because few people had not seen through the falsifying, hyper-dramatised doings of the day of denouement when Test cricket was spurned and Twenty20 embraced.
As the players suffer the bio bubble in West Asia in exchange for pots of gold, with Kohli having also let it be known that this is the last Indian Premier League he is leading Royal Challenges Bangalore in, voices in Indian cricket’s corridors of power, with a lot of hemming and hawing, reveal how the man who was deemed unassailable after beating Australia in Australia, simply allowed things to pile up against him. No one liked the way Anil Kumble had to go: with the cricket board sacrificing its own choice of a manager, who said his relationship with the captain had become untenable.
The cart was thus put before the horse. On the England tour, which included the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, an ill-fated experience for the Indians, Kohli, as the captain saying his side of things, launched into an extraordinary tirade against Cheteswar Pujara after he had played a lot of balls but made not too many runs. Kohli never named him but even the sideswipe sufficed, and the middle-order batsman was said to have strongly “conveyed to the right people” his resentment of the public snubbing. A Pandora’s box seems to open as people talk of sly, surreptitious bids to ease Rohit Sharma out of an imaginable list of captaincy candidates as he is “not getting younger every day.” And the runaway cart, with the neighing horse tethered to the back of it, seems to be knocking things over.