The 32-year-old, who has been leading Team India in all three formats (Tests, ODIs, and T-20s) since 2017, has cited ‘workload management’ as the main reason behind his decision.
The development has evoked mixed response, aspects like ‘stress and workload’ have once again come under the spotlight. Also, some wonder whether Rohit Sharma’s successful stint in T20 format, especially in IPL, compared to Virat’s poor track prompted the latter to make way for Rohit?
Workload is insane
Playing all three formats of the game for a long time is very taxing for players. Former Team India Fitness, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Sudarsan V.P., says the amount of cricket modern cricketers play is very high. With an insane workload and busy international calendar, players will be challenged fitness-wise.
“Staying away from the family for more than six months in a year does take a toll mentally too. Players’ socio-psychological needs have to be met. Virat has been playing for more than 10 years non-stop, and I feel he has now realised the importance of longevity in the game and that’s why he quit T-20,” says Sudarsan.
He describes Kohli’s decision as ‘smart’. “He’s very clear; he wants to play more test cricket, for which he has sacrificed the shorter format of the game. Moreover, captaining the team is always a pressure,” Sudarsan adds.
Mental balance is key
Playing in all the three formats is not just physically demanding, it also takes a lot from a player mentally. S. Ramky (of Sports Mechanics), Team India’s first performance analyst, underlines the importance of mental balance in a player’s fitness and longevity.
“I think Virat’s decision is an acknowledgment that he needs a break. Players need to unwind in their own way and take a break. If they can’t do that, then it becomes difficult. Every cricketer knows when to switch on and off. And unwinding in a bio-bubble is even more challenging,” says Ramky, adding that taking a break from a certain format of the game is the new norm.
He recalls that Team India earlier had a violinist customising tunes to help players unwind. “In 2005, we had a violinist who used to come up with custom tunes and play to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. We felt that music helps players calm down and gives them mental strength,” he says.
Many feel Virat should have not have taken this decision just when Team India is gearing for the T-20 World Cup which is two months away. Perhaps a decision after the World Cup would have been more sensible, they say.
Former cricketer Pragyan Ojha feels that the timing of Virat’s decision isn’t the best. While acknowledging that the decision is a ‘personal choice’, the former left arm spinner believes it will attract unwanted pressure before the World Cup and affect the players’ morale.
Admitting that captaining all the three formats is a huge reasonability, Pragyan says in his opinion, “giving up Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) captaincy would have been a good move.” He also feels that given Rohit Sharma’s track record in the T-20s, he’s the ideal choice to succeed Virat.
A BCCI move?
Over the last few months, Virat Kohli’s leadership in T-20 has come under constant criticism, more so because Rohit Sharma has led his IPL franchise Mumbai Indians (MI) to title wins while Virat hasn’t been able to win a T-20 trophy for Team India or the IPL trophy for his RCB franchise. So there is speculation that Kohli may be fearing that he will be dethroned if Team India fails to win the World Cup this time.
However, Sunil Yash Kalra, Sports Broadcaster and Commentator, has an interesting contention. He says, “Ravi Shastri is leaving his post after the T-20 World Cup, Virat gets lesser power, MS Dhoni is coming in as mentor! And Rohit Sharma will take over from Virat!
So what’s the message from BCCI?