Today Alex Ferguson returns to TFT with both guns blazing. And he’s got India’s former captain Virat Kohli firmly in his sights. Do you agree with Alex or will the history books offer a more sympathetic appraisal of Kohli’s legacy?
In the past, the player that you looked out for when you checked out the Indian scorecard was Sachin Tendulkar. Before that, Kapil Dev.
But in these heady days, it’s Virat Kohli.
It’s like Lionel Messi. Regardless of what you think of him, you can’t deny that there’s no bigger name in cricket. That’s why he’s married to a Bollywood icon, makes $17.5m a year from his craft, and is called “King Kohli” by millions of rabid fans.
He was in charge of the Indian team that went from seventh in the Test rankings to top, winning 40 out of 68 games. He was a fiery competitor who had no problem gobbing off to both opposition players and ‘opposition umpires’ in an effort to give his country an advantage. Every decision against his team when bowling was an indescribable joke, every decision against him as a batter was utterly incorrect, or probably a no ball.
When fans of opposite teams think of Virat Kohli, they think of one of the world’s best players who acted like a spoiled brat when he didn’t get decisions, who abused umpires and opposition players, was the subject of an all-time great dig from t***er-batter Tim Paine (“I know he’s your captain but you can’t seriously like him as a bloke”), and frankly, was a bit of a knob.
But whether you like him or utterly dislike him, any cricket fan would notice that Kohli hasn’t made an international century since November 22nd 2019.
Yes, we know that 2020 curtailed that run somewhat (he only played three Tests), but in 2021, he played 11 Tests, averaging a dismal-but-would-have-been-world-breaking-for-Don-Sibley 28.21. He only had 536 runs, and four 50s. And while 28.21 would probably make him one of the better batsmen on the England cricket team, all it took was a bit of criticism and Kohli ‘retired’ as not only Test captain but also captain of the T20 team.
But when you look underneath at the 58% record and think about how well the teams gelled (they rose from seventh to the height of first with him ‘in charge’), you also have to be quite honest: Under Kohi’s reign, India were the biggest chokers in cricket, too.
The all-powerful Indian cricket team lost the World Test Championship Final to New Zealand, were dumped out of the World Cup semi-finals in England, and didn’t even get out of the group stages of the World T20, where they also suffered the ignominiousness of losing to Pakistan by 10 wickets.
Kohli didn’t suffer decisions going against him well, and he didn’t suffer the BCCI, either. He traded verbals with India’s cricketing heavyweights over whether he should carry on with India’s T20 captaincy during the World T20 last year. He was then ‘canned as the country’s 50-over captain soon after, and then ‘resigned’ the Test captaincy earlier this month. His decision to walk away from the Test captaincy after the 2-1 loss in South Africa would probably have been made for him post haste had he not jumped.
Now that Kohli has resigned, he may well – with the shackles off – start hammering the runs again. At a guess, most Indian cricket fans still love him, because he’s been such a talisman for the team, averaging over 50 in all formats, and where Kohli goes, so does India.
I wonder if England could do the same with Joe Root? Without the arguments, of course.