Now that there is closure on Virat Kohli, let him be…

The master batter will be missing a full Test series for the first time in 13 years

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Finally, there is a closure on the debate over Virat Kohli’s availability for the whole of England Test series on Saturday. It’s time, then, to let him be and plan for the three Tests ahead without the master batter.

It was not really a surprise that the former captain would give this series a pass, with indications of it available across the national media – including National Herald (6 February 2024).

For the first time in 13 years ever since Kohli made his Test debut, he has given an entire Test series a skip and given his affinity for the longer format of the game – one can safely vouch for the fact that his ‘personal reasons’ are serious than he and wife Anushka Sharma spending some family time overseas.

There is no gainsaying that Indian batting, which for sure wants to look beyond the experienced hands like the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara, will be missing Kohli’s solidity and hunger for the tall scores in Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamsala.

The good news is that both KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja are back subject to fitness clearance, but there are a number of soft spots with captain Rohit Sharma failing to grit his teeth enough and the selectors finally losing their patience with Shreyas Iyer’s cavalier approach.

However, history has often shown someone puts his hands up whenever there is such a void. It happened during India’s historic tour of Down Under in 2020-21 when after losing the first Test where Kohli actually played before returning home to be present for the birth of his daughter, Ajinkya Rahane led by example as a new look team turned the tables on the Aussies 2-1 in the series after the heist at Gabba.

The question that of course begs to be asked is: could the Kohli conundrum have been handled better? The answer is certainly yes, with a bit of clarity from all quarters, for it could have spared the fierce competitor and his wife some of the brutal trolls that they have been subjected to over the past two weeks.

What made a hash of the whole episode was the revealing post from AB de Villiers, one of the star’s close family friends, saying in a lighthearted social media post that Kohli was about to become a father for the second time and then denying it two days back with an apology for spreading ‘false news.’

Make no mistake about it – it was a family emergency of sorts which had Kohli retracting himself from the squad after reporting in Hyderabad while skipping the invitation to attend the consecretion of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on January 22.

He had reportedly wanted himself to be excused from the entire series upfront, but the team management and the BCCI decided to play it by the ear as announcing that Kohli would be out of the series would have meant surrendering a huge psychological initiative to the rivals.

The result was a smokescreen on the subject of Kohli with even head coach Rahul Dravid putting the ball on the selectors’ court after a victory in the second Test.

Neither did Kohli himself help matters with a complete silence - as even a cryptic post from him on the social media while asking everyone to ‘respect his privacy’ could have settled a needless controversy when there isn’t one.

One only wishes Kohli to get over his pressing personal reasons with time and come back with the famous combative spirit that he is known for!

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