Skipper Virat Kohli talks of managing his workload and his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni is happy spending quality time with his family at his Ranchi home. Both must also be watching their teammate Mohammed Shami battling out his personal problems.
A couple of years after his marriage Dhoni decided to concentrate only on shorter formats, retiring from Test cricket. He had hinted at it well in advance, stating he would not be playing in all three formats after the 2015 World Cup. He, infact, quit Test cricket midway through the series in Australia, months before the 2015 World Cup, thus prolonging his cricket life a good four years.
Now that Kohli is a married man, he has realised he will also have to devote “quality time” at home and also address niggles from a long ardous tour of South Africa following a year playing at home. Will Kohli also be talking of not playing in all three formats two or three years down the road?
He will have to take a call in an era when smart cricketers are balancing their Test life with T20 and shockingly some enterprising and entertaining players preferring global T20 leagues to playing for their countries in any format. Soon there will be another class of players, playing only in Ten10 instant cricket!
Dhoni, who started playing international cricket a year before he played his first Test in 2005, could only last nine years as a Test player and at 33 he was through with it. During his tenure as captain he did everything that a player can aspire for, from taking India to the top of the Test rankings, winning the Twenty20, the 50-over World Cups and the Champions Trophy.
When one compares Dhoni’s stint with any other cricketer, it must be borne in mind that he had to keep wickets as captain and also batted at a key position in all three formats. Just when some started talking whether he has overstayed, he showed that he still has plenty to offer to the team as an elder statesman besides his excellent glove work and the ability to get crucial runs at crucial junctures to win matches.
Kohli at 29 is at the peak of his career and greater demands will be made of him both as cricketer as well as husband of another celebrity. Both will have to share public space as part of their lives and chosen professional fields.
Kohli will also have to take a call in the next three years like Dhoni did. Right now he seems to be enjoying his cricket and captaincy. Importantly, Kohli has started talking about listening to his body looking at his workload. In the same breath he said he would be coming out fresh on to the field in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
As long as the going is good Kohli will enjoy his cricket. If he runs into a roadblock like Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid did as captains he would also be forced to take a call. It should not be a case where it was said that India needed Tendulkar the batsman than Tendulkar the captain. Both quit, even though captaincy was not seriously affecting their batting.
As the top team in the world in two of the three formats, India should maintain their status by playing only meaningful cricket and not go round the world fulfilling commercial commitments.
It is remarkable that Shami continued to bowl as well as he did on the tour to South Africa when he was going through such turmoil in his personal life. It’s in his interest and cricket he sorted it out quickly. Unfortunately, the media coverage escalating the problem like forest fires is not helping either party. There have been sportspersons who have had serious domestic issues resulting in separation and divorce, with little washing of dirty linen out in public. That’s the price the fame has to pay.
The writer is a veteran commentator and the views expressed are personal.
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