Virat Kohli gestures during a practice session. File
Virat Kohli said on Wednesday he was told only 90 minutes before the official announcement that he had been sacked as India’s one-day captain.
Kohli quit as T20 skipper after the recent World Cup and last week lost the ODI job too, with India’s cricket board saying it wanted Rohit Sharma to lead in both white-ball formats.
The surprise announcement came in one line at the bottom of a press release by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) about the Test squad for the upcoming tour of South Africa.
“I was contacted one and a half hours before the selection meeting on the 8th for the Test series and there was no prior communication to me at all,” Kohli told reporters ahead of the team’s departure for South Africa, where they will play three Tests and three ODIs.
“Before ending the call I was told that the five selectors had decided that I would not be the ODI captain, to which I replied, ‘ok fine’,” the 33-year-old said.
Kohli will still captain India in the Tests in South Africa but press reports suggested that he had decided to skip the subsequent ODI series in a huff.
But Kohli denied this, telling reporters on Wednesday that he “was and am available for selection” and hit out at sections of the media for “writing lies.”
“Nothing can derail me from being motivated to play for India,” he said. “I am very focused and mentally prepared and very excited to go to South Africa and do the best that I can for my team.”
Kohli said he would support “100 per cent” Rohit and new manager Rahul Dravid, calling him a “very balanced coach” and a “great man-manager.” “Rohit is a very able captain and very, very tactically sound. We have seen that in the games that he captained for India and in the IPL as well,” Kohli said.
Kohli said that he had informed the board about his decision to quit as T20I captain just prior to the World Cup and it was “received well” and termed as “progressive” by the BCCI top brass, contradicting Sourav Ganguly’s statement which suggested that the star batter was asked to reconsider his decision.
Kohli contradicts Ganguly’s claim
Shortly before the start of this year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE, Kohli had announced his decision to step down as India’s T20I captain after the tournament.
“When I decided to leave the T20I captaincy and approached the BCCI about my decision, it was received well,” Kohli said. “There was no offence or hesitation. I wasn’t told to reconsider it. It was received well; I was told it’s progressive and it’s (a step) in the right direction,” said Kohli at a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
“Then I told them I’d like to continue in Tests and ODIs, unless the office bearers and selectors feel otherwise. My communication was clear in what I wanted to do. I gave them the option, that if they feel I shouldn’t (remain captain in Tests and/or ODIs), the decision is in their hands,” he added.
Notably, BCCI president Ganguly earlier had said that he requested Virat to not step down as T20I captain.
India have never won a Test series in South Africa, but Kohli said the visitors were motivated by the fact that the last Test they played there, in Johannesburg in 2018, they won.
“We probably won in the toughest conditions in that tour, so that should give us a lot of confidence that if we have the right mindset and we start out the series with a lot of confidence, we can definitely stand up to any challenge that comes our way,” Kohli said.
“South Africa is one place where we have not won a series yet. We are very motivated to do that and the mindset is always (to) go out there and win a series in any country that we play. We don’t anymore just think of winning a Test match in India,” he added.
This year India beat Australia 2-1 Down Under — albeit in Kohli’s absence apart from the first Test — and were 2-1 up in England before the tour was called off because of the pandemic.
Last week in India, they thrashed New Zealand by 372 runs to win the series 1-0, avenging their loss to the Black Caps in the inaugural World Test Championship final in England in June.
“South Africa presents a different kind of challenge. The wickets present a lot of pace and bounce and you need to be at your absolute best to be able to perform there and get runs,” Kohli said.
“I think we are very well placed in terms of experience and belief and confidence that this time around we can do something special and get the results that we want as a team.”