“Arey aapas mein itna ladoge, toh Pakistan se kaise ladoge? (If you fight so much amongst yourselves, how will fight Pakistan).” The Pakistani journalist couldn’t pose this question to Virat Kohli. Not because he backed off, but because he never got his turn. The question, however, summed up the mood around Edgbaston over the last few days. Usually, India-Pakistan encounters in global tournaments overshadow everything else, given the rivalry’s history and intensity, and consequently the bragging rights on offer. The narrative this time around, however, isn’t about the match, but the simmering tension between India captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble, even though the Indian camp is trying to downplay the issue.
The alleged “rift”, therefore, was the theme of Kohli’s pre-match perss conference. And Kohli must have known it. He didn’t have to wait too long for the first question on the issue. “Is there anything between you and Anil Kumble? And is it going to affect the team’s performance in this match?” It couldn’t have been more direct. Just like Kohli’s denial that followed.
He replied: “So there have been a lot of speculations and a lot of things being written by people without actually being a part of the changing room, which is very strange. There are no problems whatsoever.”
Kohli then expressed surprise at why there were news of a falling out between him and Kumble at a time the process to select India’s next coach was underway and insisted that the team was focused on the Champions Trophy.
“The team is totally focused on the Champions Trophy, and I honestly don’t even know … people who even try to tell me about this, I don’t even want to know anything of this sort, because in a tournament that is in focus so much, and it’s such a big stage, a lot of people like to find a lot of rumours flying around, especially before the start of the tournament,” he said.
“So, yeah, they’re doing their job, they’re trying to create some nice livelihood. And that’s all we can say. We’re focused on our livelihood, which is on the field and that’s all that we’re going to focus on. And unless — I will just say one thing — unless someone is part of something, I don’t think they should sit at a distance and speculate and give judgments on what’s happening. I’m not here to give judgments on anyone’s life,” he added.