Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli appear to have come closer in the last few white-ball matches that India have played. Rohit has seemed to be a lot more involved in on-field decision-making while fielding unlike before when he would take his fielding position quietly and will have little to do with the match once not batting. Kohli too has appeared less authoritative and has not minded seeking Rohit for a suggestion or two when in the soup.
In short, there is an attempt on both sides, particularly from Kohli, to move on from their ‘distant’ relation in the past. The question now is: what has caused this change?
There could be quite a few reasons.
To begin with, probably India’s win in Australia in Tests. The emergence of so many match-winners all of a sudden too. If a team can win without its skipper who also happens to be the best batsman and biggest match-winner in the side, even the most aggressive of captains will mellow.
For last couple of years, there has been a strong, fairly-powerful section in Indian cricket, including current players as well as people from management, which has been rooting for Rohit, and though in an undertone, they have been discussing among themselves if Rohit will be a better captaincy option than Kohli, particularly in T20Is.
Why? Because with Mumbai Indians, Rohit has proved he is a shrewd tactician and a master strategist. You don’t win five IPL trophies just like that! Before Rohit at the helm, Mumbai Indians had not won a single IPL trophy under big names like Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. Captain Kohli, on the other hand, has none, neither in international cricket (in regard to ICC tournaments), nor in franchise cricket with Royal Challengers Bangalore, and that does take the gilt off the gingerbread.
Big runs also seem to have disappeared for Kohli in last 15 months or so. He is scoring runs, looks in great control while he is at the crease but three-figure scores have not been on his side during this period. His last international century came during the Kolkata Test against Bangladesh in November 2019.
He has now gone on 45 international innings across all formats without scoring a single century. To boot, he hasn’t looked in complete control against spin either.
All this has played a role too in the mellowing of Kohli -- and who knows? -- following India’s Test success in Australia, the BCCI may have spoken to Kohli and suggested to him that it was now imperative for him to take senior players particularly in confidence and embrace democracy and push aside his totalitarianism for a while.
And Kohli is smart. He knows he has the BCCI’s full support but he also knows that he needs a happy bunch to win ICC tournaments, particularly the World T20 later this year. He knows if he doesn’t win the trophy the BCCI will be compelled to look at new options and nobody comes close to Rohit in that regard.
That he has decided to open in T20s till the World T20 later this year hasn’t just come out of the blue. There is plenty of thought behind it. It’s an attempt to increase his say, his influence as a batsman in the shortest format in terms of deciding the outcome of matches. With Shikhar Dhawan more or less out of the starting XI -- and who knows maybe even the squad? -- Kohli saw an opportunity for himself to go up the order and boy did he pounce on it with swiftness!
The World T20 later this year is going to be crucial for Virat. It’s unfathomable that he can keep his T20I captaincy without winning the tournament. So he is doing all he can, to ensure he doesn’t fail and he wants all the players to give their best. Kohli knows Rohit can be the most decisive factor in their winning the tournament in home conditions, so getting closer to him, winning his confidence is now as important as scoring and leading the side for him.
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