Virat Kohli is a star. Agreed. Virat Kohli is arguably the best limited-overs batsman that the world has ever seen. Agreed. Virat Kohli has played a part in giving Test cricket the much-required boost. Agreed. Virat Kohli regards international cricket as sacrosanct. Er… not quite sure about that.
After India led the five-match ODI series 3-0 against New Zealand, skipper Virat Kohli packed his bags and flew back to India along with his better-half. Thus, Team India was not able to avail his services for the remaining two ODIs and the T20I series as part of his 'workload management'.
The Indian captain will then very conveniently lead RCB in this year's IPL just before the ODI World Cup. Now, the question arises that can't he have rested through the IPL and played for the country? Representing your country is of paramount importance, isn't it?
And this is not the first time that he has decided to take rest from an international series. The Indian skipper copped a lot of flak when he decided to skip the high-profile Asia Cup last year. Then came the Windies T20 series and now this. It adds up to him missing 12 international matches within a mere span of five months.
Interestingly, Kohli braved through split webbing in the second part of IPL 2016 and then opted out of India’s tour of Zimbabwe. Despite all its glamour, IPL is fundamentally a domestic T20 tournament. Can it take precedence over international cricket, even if the opposition is a minnow?
And then the evergreen Ravi Shastri comes up with lines like these: “It is not a case of putting rocket fuel up his (Kohli’s) backside and getting him on the park. Even a top dog can’t be given rocket fuel up his backside.”
Now the argument, sir, is that can’t he avail the 50-day window during which the IPL will be played? Alright, let’s get a bit more pragmatic. Can’t he pick and choose the IPL matches he features in and plays only in important games? This way, he will not rob the broadcasters of their money and still be relatively fresh for the World Cup.
No? Why not? Because the IPL has blossomed into a top league and a lot of money is at stake. So, because of that, you will skip international cricket to keep your world load in check. Not on.
Ironically, Kohli had suggested in a COA (Committee of Administrators, which currently runs the BCCI) meeting in November last year that India's premium pace bowlers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah should be allowed to skip the IPL to keep them fresh for the World Cup.
Teammate and Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma had then reportedly said in the meeting, “If Mumbai Indians reach playoffs or finals and if Bumrah happens to be fit, then I cannot afford to rest him.”
In Kohli’s defence, he is one of the few international players who walk into the team in all the three formats of the game and hence the toll on his body in understandable. Plus, you have to budget in the passion with which he plays. The antics must be quite taxing on his body, one can assume.
"Physically I had a few niggles, I am just getting over those. The workload has started to disagree (taking a toll) with me a little bit. I have to be very careful about how I go forward with my body, my mind, my cricket," Kohli said on the sidelines of a promotional event in March 2018.
But given the impact that he has on cricketers and cricket lovers across the globe, he’s got to find better ways of keeping his body in good stead than skipping international cricket regularly. It also relates to a growing tribe of cricketers, Windies being its flag bearers, who are choosing domestic T20 leagues over international cricket. Make no mistake, this can have disastrous consequences in the long run.
Hence, the obvious question – does Kohli have his priorities right?