'Hey Virat, Can you stop Rohit, please? He is putting us in danger' - Kohli woke up to this message from Ravi Shastri. Unable to figure out what that meant, Virat kept his phone aside and went back to his afternoon nap. However, little did he know that a storm was brewing.
When he woke up, he had the same message from Shastri again and this time Shastri seemed more serious. Realising that it was futile for him to hear from Shastri instantly, Virat decided to call up a certain BCCI official to take stock of what Rohit did. For us, at SportsCafe, it was being in the right place at the right time, as the official later revealed the story to us once and for all.
The fact that Virat and Rohit had a massive fall-out during the World Cup for personal reasons, this was a story of particular interest for me. I was eagerly awaiting for Virat’s response to the situation through the official but the one-word answer that I received was “Instagram”, something that left me in a perplexing mood. But I rather waited until I figured out the long and short of it. Let’s get to the details in phases.
As a matter of fact, with all the players stuck inside their houses for the world-wide lockdown, they decided to get their mettle together and try out Instagram Live. Kevin Pietersen was the pioneer of it, with Indian players taking to it with effortless ease. When Kohli and Rohit joined KP, it was all fun and frolic, with Kohli, in his chat with AB de Villiers and Sunil Chhetri, showcasing some sweet camaraderie. However, “Mumbai Ka Mulgha” Rohit went beyond that to embrace the tapori style in his own way and as the official revealed, that itself spelt a problem for the current generation.
It all started with Rohit’s Live Chat with Yuvraj Singh, who forgetting all his past and brat-like persona, cribbed that the current generation doesn’t have an inspiring figure in the dressing room to look up to, unlike their youth period. His comments, of course, didn’t go down well with the many seniors of the current Indian side, but they decided to stay silent, thinking it was one-off and unnecessary to be fussed about.
All hell, however, broke loose when Rohit decided to get Harbhajan Singh on his show despite knowing the former off-spinner’s hatred for the current side. Pretty much on the expected lines, Harbhajan was critical of India’s batting plans for the World Cup and stated that India don’t have match-winners like the past, beyond Kohli and Rohit himself. The Mumbai Indians skipper was visibly upset about the performances - rightfully so, for scoring five centuries in 10 games - but had shown none of it to defend his current teammates.
The official went on to further reveal that Ajinkya Rahane helmed the objection by creating a Whatsapp group, sans Rohit and Kohli, adding players like KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, and Ravichandra Ashwin among others. They discussed why such things put the team in a bad light and must be avoided but Ishant suggested to keep it away from Virat, who always talks of team culture and bonding. Ravi Shastri, however, was kept in the loop, who then passed it off to Kohli in a subtle manner.
Kohli was quick to brush it off by saying Yuvraj had learnt from his father and advised everyone to deal with it in Mahi way. The way MS had ignored the trash talks aside all his life, Kohli called everyone to tell to ignore the malicious talks but wanted people to cut some slack. But Rahane was adamant that something needs to be done, for it was a grave problem popping up, with Ishant seconding the thought by saying even the Suresh Raina conversation with Rohit had talks of why the left-hander was not in the side veered towards ludicrousness.
The situation was going out of hand and Kohli soon realised that the tablet news media would suddenly jump onto it in the time of Coronavirus and portray his and Rohit’s relationships to be bad, just like the way it was, post the World Cup in England. That his manager Bunty Sajdeh and Rohit’s wife Ritika are technically brother-sister would even be a big PR disaster for him. The thought of that pushed him to the brink as he dialled Rohit to have him privy to the situation.
He told Rohit everything in great detail and it was then the Indian limited-overs vice-captain realised that he had made a blunder. But Kohli advised him not to reveal anything of their conversation while adding that he would try to pitch in the sanction that will keep him in good stead, after which the duo will appear in another Instagram Live to keep the tabloid at bay. That sounded like a plan to Rohit as Kohli hung up to send his suggestions.
Meanwhile, everyone was waiting for the skip to join. Kohli then decided to write a long message in the group that read, “Hey. This seems to be a scary position to be in but I understand all of you. I just talked to my good friends Andrew Strauss and Eoin Morgan to understand how to deal with such a situation. I thought Staussy would be a good man but the way my mate KP was handled, it didn’t really make him any good in my opinion. I rather believe in the Morgs' way of management, and he seems to have a plan. Like Hales was outcast from the set-up, we will sanction Rohit for six months and he will learn his lessons. But it is important to have Rohit but hey, one thing is for sure that you guys are s*** in the ODIs and I need Rohit to compensate for that.”
Rahane, Pujara and Ishant took it as a personal attack but stayed silent before Ishant was triggered by a Prithvi Shaw laughing emoji. Kohli further called up Shastri, asking him not to make a fuss every time, while reminding him that his job is only to manage people, not to coach. Seeing there is no other way, “the leadership group” agreed with Kohli, while Ishant was waiting for his opportunities to have a return message. To save the head of the problem, Kohli had invited another problem. But who cares about that?
Listening to the story in detail, I was in all splits about the great Indian cricketing circus but then a colleague whispered from behind, 'Was it not Virat Kohli’s captaincy in nutshell?'. He smiled and disappeared into the pantry but that was as good a summarization of Kohli as there can be.