Exclusive: BCCI should have handled Kohli issue more professionally, says Dilip Vengsarkar

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Indian Test captain Virat Kohli and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly
Indian Test captain Virat Kohli and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly

Former India captain Vengsarkar and cricket writer Pradeep Magazine have given their verdict on the ugly spat between Kohli and BCCI


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Wed 22 Dec 2021, 12:19 AM

It’s been a week since Virat Kohli’s thunderbolts at a BCCI-organised press conference sent shock waves across the cricket world. Never the one to shy away from a battle, Kohli’s response to the manner of his sacking as ODI captain was as bold as his stunning counterattack against Mitchell Johnson at the Adelaide Oval in 2014, after the dreaded Australian left-arm fast bowler had welcomed him to the crease with a bouncer that rattled his helmet.

Now seven years later, Kohli was not rattled by his removal as one-day captain. But he was hurt by the lack of grace from the Indian cricket board which, he claimed, had only informed him about their decision to sack him 90 minutes before the official announcement.

So Kohli, rather than ducking under the bouncers in that press conference, decided to unleash the hook shot, the ferocity of which has now raised serious questions about the credibility of BCCI president Sourav Ganguly.

Such was the extent of the damage that fresh cracks have started to appear in an already divided country as many national media houses have feasted on Kohli’s explosive press conference.

Not Ganguly’s jurisdiction

While Kohli’s detractors have found fresh grounds to wage a battle, saying his bold press conference was bordering on arrogance, there are others who have questioned the lack of professionalism from the world’s most powerful cricket board.

Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar. (AFP)
Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar. (AFP)

“It’s very unfortunate, the whole thing. I think it should have been handled more professionally by the cricket board,” former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar told Khaleej Times.

The legendary Indian batsman, who had also served the BCCI as the chairman of selectors, said Ganguly should have never given any statement on the change of captaincy.

“The thing is that Ganguly had no business to speak on behalf of the selection committee. Ganguly is the president of BCCI. Any issue about selection or captaincy, it’s the chairman of the selection committee who should speak,” Vengsarkar said.

“Ganguly spoke about the whole thing, obviously Virat wanted to make his case clear. I believe it should have been between the chairman of the selection committee and the captain. A captain is selected or removed by the selection committee, that’s not Ganguly’s jurisdiction at all.”

Vengsarkar was aghast at how little the BCCI has changed over the years.

“It has always been the case right from 1932 (when the first Indian team was selected),” Vengsarkar said of the disdain the board shows while removing a captain.

“Once we saw four captains in five Test matches. But yes, things should change now. Kohli, you have to respect him, he has done so much for the country, so much for Indian cricket. But how they dealt with him, it must have definitely hurt him.”

Communication disaster

Vengsarkar’s sentiments were echoed by eminent Indian cricket writer Pradeep Magazine, who has been appalled by the world’s richest cricket board’s communication disaster.

“I am surprised by the insensitivity. The question is not whether Kohli should have been removed or not. That is the selectors’ prerogative. There is a logic behind his removal (India have not won an ICC trophy under Kohli, despite his brilliant captaincy record). That’s not an issue. But the issue is when you are removing such a long-standing captain who has done so wonderfully well as a player and as a captain, you show some respect to him,” Magazine said.

“You don’t just announce to the world without even naming him. It reflects the callousness, the indifference, which you don’t expect from anyone, especially in the present times, when you have a communication department. I mean, it was highly insensitive of the board.”

Indian cricket writer Pradeep Magazine. (Twitter)
Indian cricket writer Pradeep Magazine. (Twitter)

Magazine then pointed to Ganguly’s own unceremonious exit as captain and player after he had fallen out with the then coach Greg Chappell.

“What makes it even more sad and ironic is that Ganguly was also a victim of the insensitiveness of the board. For him, now to allow this to happen, it makes it even worse,” said Magazine, whose new book, Not Just Cricket, has thrown light on how past captains Tiger Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Bishan Singh Bedi had been the victims of the BCCI’s high-handedness.

But it was only Kohli that had dared to challenge the mighty cricket board.

“Yes, that’s what has embarrassed the board. All those captains who had been removed like that had never spoken about their grievances. But he (Kohli) has embarrassed the board by saying that they are lying. So yes, he is the first captain that has taken on the board in a public platform!”

Now to avoid repeating such fiascos in future, Magazine warned the board of the perils of drifting away from the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee’s guidelines

“I hope to see transparency. I think they need to stick to the constitutional changes the Supreme Court has made. They are not following that and I think they are taking it lightly. It might explode on their face someday. I wish they follow the new guidelines, the new rules,” Magazine said.

Kohli’s future

Now the jury is out on whether Kohli has dug his own grave as an international cricketer by taking on the cricket board.

But both Magazine and Vengsarkar have backed the 33-year-old Kohli, who has transformed India into a formidable Test team, despite his modest returns with the bat in the past two years, to flourish in the three-Test series in South Africa that starts on December 26 at Centurion.

“I think he motivates himself this way, the anger helps him do better,” Magainze said.

“I am no great fan of Kohli’s style of captaincy, his aggression on the field. I think that sets a bad example. But he is someone who feeds off such kind of aggression or anger. So I believe he will motivate himself to do better.”

And Vengsarkar believes it’s Kohli mental strength and his fitness levels that will eventually help him bounce back.

“He is still the captain of the Test team and he is one of the best players in world cricket at the moment,” said Vengsarkar whose highlights as the chairman of selectors include bringing back Ganguly from the cold in 2006 after the left-hander’s ugly spat with Chappell, making MS Dhoni India captain in 2007 and fast-tracking Kohli into the Indian team in 2008.

“Yes he (Kohli) hasn’t scored the hundreds (in the last two years), but he has been among the runs. There is no question about his ability. His fitness level is superb. He is too good a player to be affected by these things!”

Timeline: Sourav Ganguly-Virat Kohli standoff

December 8

BCCI appoints T20 skipper Rohit Sharma as full-time one-day captain. The announcement came in one line at the bottom of a press release by BCCI about the Test squad for the South Africa series. The announcement on the change of captaincy didn’t bear the name of Kohli.

December 9

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly tells Indian media that the board wanted Kohli, who had decided to step down as T20 captain after the World Cup, to reconsider his decision as the selectors did not want two white-ball captains.

December 15

Kohli told reporters in a press conference that he was informed of his removal as ODI captain only 90 minutes before the official announcement. The Indian Test captain also said the BCCI never asked him to reconsider his decision to quit T20 captaincy, contrary to Ganguly’s claim. Kohli also dismissed rumours of his unavailability for the South Africa ODI series. He also clarified that there has been no rift between him and new white-ball captain Rohit Sharma

December 17

Two days after Kohli’s explosive press conference, Ganguly said the board would not make any official statement on the controversy. “No statements, no press conference. We will deal with it, leave it to (the) BCCI,” Ganguly told reporters in Kolkata

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