In the early hours of Thursday, on All Elite Wrestling (AEW), the ever-so-captivating Tazz worked what arguably was the most real and best ‘eff the management’ shoot since CM Punk’s pipebomb in 2011. Little did we know that it would get eclipsed 12 hours later by the most unlikely candidate.
Rarely do you get anything worthwhile from Kohli press conferences barring the *insert generic response*. He is, after all, who you call a ‘PR Master’ - he gives nothing away through his words, speaks a lot without saying a thing, and conveniently dodges controversial questions by using, well, a generic response. But on Thursday, the Indian skipper flipped. In wrestling terms, he broke kayfabe and delivered a masterful, scathing unscripted shoot which shook the entire cricketing fraternity, the tremors of which are still being felt by a few.
In a five minute rant - which was aided by questions asked by brave and smart journos - the Indian skipper indirectly ripped the BCCI to shreds and called out the board’s incompetence in public. If it wasn’t evident already that things were not alright in the BCCI, Kohli’s words on Thursday brought the message out and hung it on a billboard.
Incompetent, inept, clumsy, unprofessional, maladroit - it is hard to think of fitting words to describe the abomination that has unfolded within the BCCI over the course of the past fortnight. The utter disregard that the board has shown for its biggest stakeholder, the fans, has been enraging and ignominious.
The whole fiasco surrounding Rohit Sharma, his fitness, and his whereabouts could so easily have been avoided had common sense and transparency prevailed, but no, the BCCI, instead, spent weeks trying to get the fans to turn on the MI skipper to vindicate themselves. Post the initial miscommunication that happened in the immediate aftermath of the Indian team selection, the general public were kept in the dark, ‘sources’ spread misinformation and misdirected fans, uncalled-for interviews were given by the board President and they managed to establish Rohit as the villain of the drama.
But justice prevailed in many ways on Thursday as the BCCI’s incompetence was exposed and called out in public by the one force bigger than them - Virat Kohli. There are myriad questions that the board simply cannot dodge, and do not have the answers for.
Why did the board not reveal that Rohit went back home for ‘family reasons’ until yesterday?
At 11:48 PM on Thursday, the BCCI sent out a press release stating that Rohit had travelled back to Mumbai to visit his ailing father. But what took the board so long to communicate this to the public? Without revealing the specifics, the BCCI could so easily have sent out a release claiming that Rohit was flying back home for ‘personal reasons’. That would both have taken the heat off the Mumbaikar and also explained why he, instead of flying to Australia, opted to go back home.
Why was Virat Kohli kept in the dark about Rohit Sharma’s injury?
How can the cricketing body not inform the national captain about the fitness and whereabouts of the vice-captain? The board should, at the least, have informed Kohli why they chose to send Rohit back home and not travel along with the rest of the squad Down Under. Why was it not done? Did they expect the captain to not bat an eye and instead just oblige to everything without an iota of cross-questioning?
Why wasn’t Ishant flown to Australia earlier?
While there were obvious complications surrounding Rohit Sharma’s travel, there was nothing that stopped the BCCI from sending Ishant to Australia earlier. He returned back to India mid-way through the IPL and so, like Saha, could easily have completed the rest of his rehab in Australia and made himself fit for at least a couple of Tests, if not all four. But he now finds himself stuck in India despite having ‘fully recovered’ from the side strain he sustained in IPL 2020. BCCI’s press release on Thursday loosely stated, “Yeah. Ishant has completely recovered from his injury and he is training hard to be match fit but, you know, he’s ruled out.”
The BCCI received Rohit’s scan reports prior to selection, so why did they not stop him from participating in the rest of the IPL?
If the BCCI - as they’ve admitted - knew that Rohit had a chance of making it to the Australia series if he rested, why did they not pull him out of the IPL? After all, they had the authority to do so. All controversy would completely have been stymied had Rohit not partook in the playoff matches. Any franchise would obviously want their captain to take to the field, so why did the BCCI, if they really cared about Rohit’s fitness, not intervene?
Why did the BCCI not have independent physios monitoring Indian players in the IPL?
As was evident with the case of Rohit Sharma - and to an extent, Varun Chakravarthy - the BCCI had all but no trust in the medical reports provided by franchises. If they did, Rohit would not have been pulled from the squad. So what stopped them from having independent physios monitoring and assessing those on the radar of selection? Conflict between the BCCI and franchises is not just an IPL 2020 thing, nor is it that they cannot afford to implement the aforementioned strategy.
Like they’ve done so many times in the past, the board will, obviously, aim for escape routes. Painting Rohit Sharma the villain is their current go-to exit door and they have succeeded to an extent. A fair few fans have turned on Rohit for his negligence and have branded him a ‘money-grab’ who ‘prioritizes IPL over national commitments’.
That Rohit has to take a fair share of blame goes unsaid, but, arguably, any player in his situation would have done the same. Rohit’s biggest mistake was not that of playing at 80% fitness levels; it was that of trusting the board. It is time that Ganguly and the BCCI take a good, hard look in the mirror, swallow their pride and own up to their mistakes. A month on, Indian cricket stands as the biggest loser.