MSK Prasad ‘Shocked’; Kiran More ‘Sad’ as Former Cricketers Taken Aback by Virat Kohli’s Resignation as Test Captain

As the nation was flying kites high in the sky on the occasion of Sankranti on Saturday evening came the news of the grounding of a colourful and successful kite that was Virat Kohli, the Indian cricket Test captain.

The news of Kohli stepping down as Test captain through his tweet came as a shock to the cricketing fraternity and follows the sequence of him announcing his resignation as T20 captain late last year and snatching away the ODI reins from him when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced Rohit Sharma as the ODI captain for the tour of South Africa, which has eventually gone to KL Rahul as the holder of three double centuries in the 50-over format has not recovered in time for the ODIs in the Rainbow Nation starting on January 19.

While the cricketing fraternity was still searching for answers as to what would have prompted Kohli to take this decision, a majority of the people did not see this coming while only a few may claim to have expected this following the 1-2 Test series loss in South Africa.

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Perhaps Kohli – the most successful Indian Test captain with 40 wins from 2014 Adelaide till the day before yesterday in Cape Town and having captained the country in most Tests, 68 – did not want to be sacked as the skipper by the BCCI. Perhaps he did not want to get into a situation in which the great England all-rounder Ian Botham found himself in, in the 1981 Ashes Tests in his country. Botham stepped down from Test captaincy after the second Test at Lord’s as form abandoned him and wins weren’t coming.

Botham wrote in his book, ‘The Incredible Tests, The inside story of England’s greatest Test series’: “Immediately I uttered those words (‘I have resigned as England’s captain’) I felt a new man. For the first time in a month, I felt completely relaxed. I was at peace with the world again.”

It was a series in which Botham was appointed Test captain match after match and not for the entire series, and was on trial. It was the series in which, after he relinquished the captaincy, England went on to win the Ashes through his heroics that included the famous Headingley Test, which is popularly known as the Botham Test. As Botham goes on to write in that book, “… in my opinion, Alec (Bedser, then chairman of selectors) spoiled what had been a perfectly amicable parting of the ways by announcing, ‘We were going to sack him anyway’.”

Kohli, though, unlike Botham and England, has been named Test captain till he wanted it, may have felt at peace with the world again after putting out his lengthy tweet at 6.44 pm on Saturday and perhaps did not want the BCCI to snatch it away from him through the selectors. The disappointment of not being able to win a Test series in South Africa in two attempts (2017-18 and 2021-22) as captain and the personal form of not being able to score a Test hundred may have cluttered his mind for long and made him to take this decision.

But, one positive thing for India is Kohli will now be a player without the weight of expectations of leading India to this victory and that. Like Botham did that English summer 41 years ago, Kohli can only raise his already-high standards and play as a senior pro and guide the youngsters and the new Test captain with his experience and expertise.

Former chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, was “shocked” at Kohli stepping down from captaincy. “I am still not able to digest the fact that he has stepped down from Test captaincy. Am still searching for the reasons for him stepping down as Test captain. I felt that he still has a lot to offer as a captain and as a player in Tests,” Prasad told from Hyderabad.

Another former chairman of selectors and former India wicketkeeper, Kiran More, was disappointed at Kohli’s sudden decision to step down from Test captaincy.

“The way he has left is a bit sad,” More said to this website after returning home from flying kites with his friends and relatives in Baroda. “The way people have treated him, and I am not talking of the BCCI, and criticised him was not fair. He has played a lot of cricket, he has done well for India. The way he played any form of cricket, he had that quality. He always showed the character that he wanted to win. Let’s not forget he is a World Cup winner (2011). He has got 70 international hundreds and is a special player. I am disappointed with the way people were talking about him and the way his captaincy was criticised. For me, he is a legend. Performance-wise, we cannot touch him. I am not worried about him stepping down from T20 or ODI captaincy. That is part of life. The way people were criticising him was not good.”

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More felt that the onus now was on chief coach, Rahul Dravid, and the selectors to regroup the Indian Test team under a new captain. “This always happens. People have to come together and regroup. That’s the job of Rahul Dravid and the selectors. They are matured cricketers. It is not going to be easy and will take time for the Indian team to settle down. Test cricket is not easy, no matter what. You play Test cricket with your heart. He’s got to perform. Kohli’s 79 and 29 in Cape Town were like 150 on difficult pitch.”

On what lies ahead for Kohli the batsman, More said: “It is not easy to leave captaincy. He was the captain in all three formats. He must have decided to focus on his batting and win matches for the country. He has always played freely to score 70 international hundreds. Time comes in every captain’s life to move on. Every captain feels it and perhaps he has felt it now.”

More’s India team-mate and fellow wicketkeeper, now a successful coach in the domestic circuit, Chandrakant Pandit, was left a little surprised with Kohli’s decision.

“It is a little surprising. I don’t know the reasons,” said Pandit, pondering at his room in Indore, where is planning for Madhya Pradesh as the State team’s head coach.

“He has always been the man behind the success of the Indian team. Something similar to the players of the past like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, all of whom have given a lot of success to Team India. He has continued that. I have always loved to watch him for his aggression as a player and as a captain. I always like somebody motivating his players, leading from the front and Kohli always had that attitude. I am surprised that he has taken this decision so quickly,” Pandit said.

Pandit hoped that Kohli has not relinquished Test captaincy for the simple reason that India lost the Test series in South Africa. He said: “It should not be the reason as winning and losing are a part of the game. He is like an engine on the field. He is also a role model on the ground to motivate the team. He could have gone for another one or two years (as captain). He has got tremendous fitness. Performances go up and down and that does not mean one gives up captaincy, especially of his calibre.”

While Pandit did agree that the burdens of captaincy off his shoulders would make a difference to Kohli, he said: “He is not one to take pressure. He has always given pressure to others when he is batting or leading the side. That always helps the youngsters in the team. He is not one of those who performs well only without the captaincy pressures. In fact, he likes the challenges of captaincy. He will continue to guide the youngsters in his team like how Tendulkar and Dhoni did in their days, guiding the younger captains. I hope whoever is the new captain, he continues with the same aggression as Kohli. The Indian team needs this kind of aggression. The Indian team has tremendous talent. Just that it needs that fire, which we have always seen in Kohli. We talk about batsmen carrying on with the momentum. This Indian team needs to carry on with the momentum from Kohli’s captaincy.”

Former India all-rounder and a selector, Madan Lal, agreed with Pandit’s view that Kohli’s decision should not have been influenced by the lack of success in Test series in South Africa, and that he wanted to see him for another year or two as Test captain.

Lal said: “What next? He’ll keep on playing for the country and keep on performing. The game is all about performance, nothing else. You have to keep on performing and keep on playing. At the end of the day, it is performance that counts.

“Kohli has done a very good job as a captain. I wanted to see him as Test captain for one or two years. I like his aggressive nature. People talk about Indians not being aggressive and here we have had a captain who’s aggressive, who wanted to win everything. He is a frontline performer. People say that he has not got a century for more than two years. But, he has got runs. Everything is not about just hundreds but about performing and winning for the country. His contribution is immense. I like his captaincy for his aggressiveness, whatever decision he has taken, he is very positive.”

Lal, a medium-pacer in his days and a crucial member of the 1983 World Cup-winning Indian team, acknowledged Kohli’s liking to pack his team with fast bowlers.

“Another thing I liked about Kohli’s captaincy was that he recognised the importance of pace bowlers. When he took over, he knew that he wanted to have four to five fast bowers who could win Test matches for the country.”

Lal stressed that it was not the bowlers who let the team down in South Africa but the batsmen. “In South Africa, the Indian batting failed, not the bowling department. Kohli has always encouraged fast bowlers and won many games with them. When you have a world-class fast bowler and a world-class spinner, you always win a few more games than anybody else,” the 70-year-old Lal said.

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The talk of Kohli not being able to win an ICC Trophy may have annoyed Kohli, felt Lal. “Perhaps, he was annoyed by the sacking as 50-over captain. He was clear he’d give up 20-over captaincy but not 50-over and Test captaincy. Maybe there was a lack of communication with the selectors, I don’t know. I don’t agree that it has got to do with him not being able to lead India to an ICC trophy win. I know every captain wants to lift the ICC trophy but you are building the team and winning matches for the country. As a Test team, that is where the class is recognised,” Lal said.

Lal said that giving up captaincy might relax Kohli a little, but “the pressure is always going to be there. You are free of pressure only when you score runs. He has set high standards for himself and has to maintain them. That is the pressure he is going to have”.

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