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Friday, October 22, 2021

Leaving RCB captaincy could liberate Virat Kohli, see him scale untouched peaks

Virat Kohli's eight-year tenure as the RCB skipper was of cringing underachieving, despite having some of the biggest names in the shortest format like AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle.

Written by Sandip G |
Updated: September 21, 2021 7:43:36 am
Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli in action against Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2021. (IPL)

The two-month stint in UAE will be the last for Virat Kohli as a T20 captain. Two days after he announced his decision to quit as his country’s T20 captain after the World Cup, he has decided to renounce captaining his franchise side, Royal Challengers Bangalore, post this edition of the Indian Premier League. In a 2.9-minute video posted on the RCB Twitter handle, he said, with a crisp smile on his face: “This will be my last leg in the IPL as captain of the RCB. I will continue to be an RCB player till I play my last IPL game. It was something that was on my mind for a while, as I had recently announced stepping down from T20 captaincy (of the country) to manage my workload.”

Easing the workload, he felt, would keep him fresh for the challenges in what could be the final stretch of a glorious career. “I want to be able to be committed to the responsibilities that I am fulfilling and I felt I needed the space to be fresh, to regroup and be absolutely clear in how I want to move forward. This is just a little halt, it’s not the end of the journey,” he said.

It would end a rather underwhelming stint as Bangalore skipper, unless of course, he could salvage the season by winning the trophy and leaving on a high. But otherwise, his eight-year tenure was of cringing underachieving, despite having some of the biggest names in this format like AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle. He could partly blame an imbalanced squad, unfortunate injuries and untimely loss of form. But he can’t wash his hands off the abysmal 60-65 win-loss record, irrespective of all the conspiring circumstances. The closest he came to landing the trophy was in 2016, driven by himself with staggering 973 runs, but it eluded him. They reached two play-offs, in 2015 and 2020, but his captaincy drew flak.

Partly, the real reason Kohli the leader is not as appreciated as Kohli the batsman, despite being the most successful Test and T20 captain of his country, stems from his middling record as RCB’s captain. People tend to twin the tales, and read them as the same narrative. The Rohit Sharma-versus-Kohli captaincy debates begin from IPL.

But then both India and RCB need the outer limits of Kohli the insuperable batsman, than Kohli, the uber-aggro skipper. Even without being a captain, Kohli would continue to bring intensity and aggression onto the field. Maybe, he could turn out to be more intense than ever before, as if a heavy millstone is off his neck. It could liberate him. It could elevate his batsmanship to hitherto untouched peaks, beyond the lofty peaks that he himself had scaled.

While forsaking captaincy of his country alone would not have mattered much in terms of unburdening, there is relatively less pressure leading your country in a T20 game, unless it’s the World Cup, leaving T20 skipper-ship altogether infuses more sense and purpose. The pressure, the emotional investment and rigours, of leading the franchise is significantly higher than leading the country. There is a lot more at stake, especially for an aspirational club like RCB, who are so desperate for landing the trophy. And unlike the World Cup that knocks once in four years, the IPL is an annual affair. Moreover, he not only has to lead the side for two months of the Indian summer, but would be constantly involved in auctions, pre-season, commercials and camps. And, of course, the nerve-wracking scrutiny.

Those are distractions, or negativity, that Kohli wants to steer clear off in his endeavour to enhance his batsmanship. The last two years have been dismayed by his dizzying standards— he hasn’t registered a hundred for nearly two years. If he cannot reacquaint with his own heavy-scoring ways sooner, he perhaps never would. By calling time on his T20 captaincy, he’s trying to buy time to win back the lost form. It could turn out to be a win-win for the country, franchise side, and importantly Kohli himself. As he said, a halt, a necessary one, before a long journey.

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