VIRAT’s Stepping down leaves India in a Tough Phase

On 9th December 2014, a 26-year-old led India for the first time as a stand-in captain, because the main captain was injured. On the final day of the game, India had a huge target of 364 on a tough turning track. Any other captain, including the main captain, would have easily gone for a draw. But, this young and aggressive skipper had some other ideas. He decided to go for the chase and started leading by example. He smashed hundred in both the innings of captaincy debut and almost pulled off the match, but he got out t a crucial juncture as wickets were continuously falling on the other end. India lost the game by 48 runs. TIll then, even winning matches overseas, less talk the series used to be a dream for us. But, from that day onwards the seeds of ‘HUNGER’ and ‘PASSION’ were sown in Indian Cricket forever.

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As the main captain retired from test cricket after 2 games, the stand-in captain became the main captain of the team. He had to lead a team that was placed 7th at the Test rankings. Now, after 7 years, that team stands No.1 in the Test rankings and have conquered the forts of England and Australia, something that every captain aspires for. The team has been ‘Unbeaten’ at home for the last 10 years and comprises a pace attack that even overseas batsmen are scared of. On 19th January 2021, an Indian team comprising of young lads successfully chased down against Australia at Gabba, which used to be a ground where Australia was unbeaten for 32 years. Now, India not winning a series overseas comes like an upsetting shock. That’s the legacy of this man. Yes…I am talking about India’s greatest ever Test Captain…VIRAT KOHLI.

India starts off the series in style

When India entered the series, they were the absolute favourites against the young South African side that is in transition. On expected lines, the series started with a comprehensive Indian victory at the Centurion (first for India at that ground). India riding on the brilliant 100 by KL Rahul and an impressive fifty by Mayank Agarwal put up a score of 327 (though it could have been higher if not for the collapse). Indian pace attack led by Shami was right on the mark and bundled the SA innings at 197 giving India a formidable lead. In the second innings, India didn’t see any big score and was managed only 174, but the huge lead made the overall target for SA very high. On expected lines, wrapping SA seemed like a cakewalk yet again and India won the match by a huge 113 runs.

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South Africa shocks India with a comprehensive chase

In the second game, VIRAT was out due to back pain. The team struggled while batting first and could only score 202 and only RAHUL was able to score a fifty. SA too was not able to score very fluently and was out at 229. THAKUR with his 7 wickets helped in the lead not getting larger. In the next innings, India’s start was not good, but the two OLD GUARDS chose the best possible time to return back in form. With twin fifties from PUJARA and RAHANE, India looked comfortable. VIHARI who came in place of KOHLI too looked quite decent. India’s 266 meant a target of 242 for SA, which was not at all easy that too against a side like India. But, from the very start, SA batsmen looked highly determined. ELGAR led from the front, batting his heart out and taking blows all over his body with an unbeaten 96. Ample support from the other end meant that the target was chased only at the loss of 3 wickets. India failed to defend something in excess of 200 after a very long long time.

Heartbreak: The Final Frontier remains Unconquered

Finally, it all boiled down to the Decider. VIRAT was back and so did everybody hoped for our fortunes. India lost its openers early, but VIRAT came back in form in the most unorthodox style possible. He was looking in extreme control with both his shots as well as leaves. But, wickets kept on falling at the other end and as a result Virat too was forced to play shots in search of singles (so that the bowler doesn’t come on strike and gets out) and in the process, he nicked one after a formidable knock of 79 of 201 balls. After 223, India led by Bumrah was able to wrap up SA batting at 210 only and taking a small only but lead. In the next innings, India needed to do much more keeping the last match in mind. On the contrary, wickets kept falling at loose and poor shots. Virat looked solid again while playing 143 balls, but could score only 29.

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However, PANT shut all his critics and came guns blazing against the run of play. He scored a memorable 100 and remained unbeaten. But, India’s score of meagre 198 was never going to be enough. Once again, SA ended up chasing the target quite easily led by the young KEEGAN PETERSON. Indian bowlers suddenly looked out of rhythm and tired, to be honest. Also, India missed a trick here, they should have benched ASHWIN in this game and instead should have gone with VIHARI as an extra batsman. Ashwin was not at all effective in this series and VIHARI was in nice form not just in the last game, but also in the recently concluded India-A series. It would have surely helped our cause. Anyways, the series was lost, hearts were broken (it hurt more than the T20 WC loss) and the Final Frontier remains unconquered. And, it seems like the OLDGUARDS have played their last games for India, as they can’t be persisted with, when an abundance of talent is waiting on the bench in the form of Gill, Vihari, Shreyas, Surya and Prithvi.

VIRAT Steps Down in an absolute Shocker

If this much pain was not enough for the fans, Virat stepped down as the Test Captain as well. Now, it was very shocking and completely unexpected. We need to remember that just 3 months back, Virat had said while leaving the T20I captaincy that he wishes to continue leading in ‘Tests and ‘ODIs’. So, first of all, he was removed from ODI captaincy without even taking him into confidence. Though I myself too believe that there can’t be two white ball captains, there is a way of doing everything. You can’t just remove someone as big as him from captaincy without any conversation and take one day in posting a ‘Thank You’ message that too after a social media backlash. After this, even Kohli’s critics would agree that he should have continued as Test captain.

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So, I can only think of two possible theories for his sudden announcement. THEORY I: He was not able to manage his mental workload. He tried till this series as he wanted to conquer the final frontier. But, after the loss, he did what his mind has made up much earlier and stepped down. THEORY II: After limited-overs captaincy, BCCI wanted him to step down as Test captain as well. He was feeling humiliated by continuous signals from the BCCI and was also able to feel camps within his own team. We should remember how the whole team selected for T20WC clearly looked Rohit’s selection. Further, the appointment of MS Dhoni as a mentor during T20WC and Rohit as vice-captain in Tests were signals to Virat that his post is not secure. Also, BCCI was anyways angry with Virat after his press conference contradicting the board. I really want to believe in Theory I but every bloody indication is pointing towards Theory II only. Nothing much can you expect when an incompetent NEPO Kid is ruling the board and a former captain is not able to prevent what happened to him as captain. Whether you liked Virat or not, something like this shouldn’t have happened with him.

Disappointment continues in the ODIs 

India’s dismal form continued in the ODI series as well. Here, in absence of ROHIT, the team was being led by RAHUL. In the first match. South Africa was able to post a big score of 296 riding on the 100s of Van Der Dussen and Temba Bavuma. No one other than BUMRAH even looked in the league. While batting, DHAWAN and VIRAT did score fifties but post that wickets fell on quick intervals. THAKUR made a gutsy fifty but that couldn’t prevent India from falling short of 31 runs. In the second game, PANT scored a firing 85. RAHUL’s fifty and finishing touches from THAKUR and ASHWIN took the score to a defendable 287. But, nothing came in the way of a quickfire fifty from Quinton De Kock. Malan’s 91 and ample support from the middle order took South Africa home some 2 overs earlier at the loss of just 3 wickets. Once again, no one other than BUMRAH was able to create even an impact. Here, I would also say that South Africa’s return to prime form is very good news for the Cricketing World.

De Kock ton leads South Africa to ODI series sweep of India | Prothom Alo

In the third game, India really came close to a victory. After SA posted a good total of 287 riding on the 100 of De Kock and fifty of De Dussen. India too started well with the fifties from Virat and Shikhar. But, a middle-order not capitalising made the situation difficult for us. Deepak Chahar brought us back in the game with an unbelievable 54, but still, India missed the game by a whisker of 4 runs. India was whitewashed in the most brutal way possible. Failure in our ODI setup is a real point of concern because SA didn’t have many of its prime bowlers and the wickets too weren’t that difficult. We need to look beyond some options now. Bhuvi looks much past his prime and Chahal is not able to create an impact. Our middle order needs to start taking more responsibility. Also, we have to STOP trying any random player in search of Kapil Dev (Batting All-Rounder) instead we should give more chances to deserving young talents. Also, post-Rohit’s return alongside Dhawan (he shouldn’t be doubted), Rahul needs to go back at 4 as he can finish as well. The returns of Jadeja and Pandya will surely help and so will Rohit’s comeback as the skipper. Plus, Gill should be mixed in the setup and readied for the 2023 WC.

Let’s Hope for a Smooth Transition

Now, there is no contrary opinion in saying that the Indian Team has entered a stage of transition. In my opinion, Rohit should be leading us in all three formats at least till the 2023 WC. I am quite confident of him as a captain in white-ball (though not in Tests). But, we all know that both age and fitness are not on Rohit’s side so we should also be looking at future leaders. Rahul is a good option but his captaincy skills are yet to undergo a proper test and an average IPL record will come in his way just like it happened with Virat. Plus, the recent outings haven’t helped him either. Iyer too is a good option because he is someone who WANTS to lead the team and someone who wants to lead, will definitely bring passion to the table. Bumrah and Ashwin can’t lead in my opinion, because while the former is rested during home tests, the latter doesn’t always make it into the XI during overseas games. I personally think Pant would be a great choice as captain and should be groomed, because of his unpredictable approach and reading of the game behind the stumps.

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But, more than proper transition what we badly need is a BREAK. I have said this, again and again, that Indian cricketing schedules are just too tightly packed. Staying in a bubble for so long and not having adequate breaks can’t let you perform at your full potential during crucial games. BCCI led by that incompetent NEPO kid can’t just keep on acting like a bull systematically demolishing its own China Shop. Till then, let’s keep the reigns in the hands of our coach Rahul Dravid who has an exceptional RESUME as a coach. Only he can take us out of this difficult phase. At last, I would again like to thank Virat Kohli for his captaincy services. I hope, Virat is able to get out of all the mental pressure like he did in 2006 and 2014 and we are able to witness the BEST batsman in the world once again coming to bat at 3/4 for India. Finally, we should also keep in mind that a team can’t always keep on winning and I am with my team in this difficult phase and so should be everybody else. Don’t feel down, take your time and come back Strong.


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