If you are an Indian cricketer, it is imperative that your life would revolve around innuendos, media speculation as much as it about living the dream. One has to be at his toes all the time while ensuring that the bad public relations don’t affect the on-field performance.
The speculation about the rift between Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli certainly holds some water - as has been evident from the active involvement of the Committee of Administrators and Virat Kohli’s non-committal answer in the press conference - but what does it matter to Indian cricket? The question here is if can or not they keep a professional relationship just like Steve Waugh and Shane Warne did despite all the rift between them and take the flag of Indian cricket onward and upward with their common love for the country?
In this regard, the first name that strikes the head is Kevin Pietersen, a cricketer of unbelievable mental strength and ability, but he could never accustom himself to an English team culture that always demanded their star players to be a little more conservative. However, by failing to do so, Pietersen along with England and Wales Cricket Board not only let themselves down but also created a toxic team culture which had its share of lows until they did away with the maverick, and ultimately tragic, batsman.
This, in no way, to say that what Kohli said in the pre-departure press conference was a lie and the speculation of the rift is 100% right but this speaks volumes about Indian cricket and its inability to put them in a system. It might be reading too much but by talking about the results and the time he praised Rohit, Kohli didn’t really take a step forward to end the argument. It, in a way, came as a cover for something that is there but neither parties want to play the stuff in public.
Just over a couple of years ago, when the talks of Anil Kumble-Virat Kohli rift was reported extensively, Kohli, in a harsh tone, rubbished the reports during the Champions Trophy saying “All I can say is, if you do not have the knowledge about something, do not spread rumors, do not speculate, and focus on the cricket” and “In a tournament which is so much in focus, a lot of people like to find rumors before the tournament. They are trying to do their job and get their livelihood. We will focus on our livelihood.” As it had eventually turned out, he was peddling anything other than the truth.
In Australian cricket, a rivalry in the team is a common phenomenon but the ambition of winning triumphs everything. However, in India, it has largely been about superstar ego-feeding and any amount of rift between two huge figures would be a recipe for disaster as the Indian team looks to put the World Cup semi-final exit behind and prepare for the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. Could the team align the way they have done in the last few years and play with the same spirit as they have done - a trait that Kohli has mentioned over and over again as the major reason for the success?
Just a few days ago, a Times of India report came out saying a certain senior player was asked for an explanation for keeping his wife with him, even though he was not given any permission for it, and the sources are saying it was the Indian vice-captain. However, if that was the reason for the personal rift, it is as laughable as anything else. True that a personal equation shouldn’t be brought into the discussion of national team harmony, but looking at the past issues in Indian cricket, we can say it will affect in a huge way.
In India in general and Indian cricket team in particular, authority is too often invested in those away from the action. If the speculated rift holds any truth, then it displays a crass failure to recognize that with ego comes sensitivity. As the BCCI moves in the direction of organizing its long-standing election and perhaps prepare themselves for a simpler time ahead, they must need to reflect on the culture first and everything else next.
Both Kohli and Rohit are the ultimate box-office cricketers in India and if there is any amount of rift that is brewing, it should be of paramount importance for the people inside the dressing room to make them sit down and talk. The failure to do so would come up as a damning indictment of a system that has always had “superstar syndrome”. The sooner it goes away and people come on the same page, it is the better.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi