In his first 38 Tests as skipper, Virat Kohli changed at least one member of his starting eleven 37 times. The Indian cricket captain broke that pattern for the fourth Test against England in Southampton and finally named an unchanged side. This constant nature of chop and change, irrespective of the result in the previous match, did little to promote security. Players got used to batting with a fear of failure, a metaphorical gun to their head. If you fail in this match, you will be the designated drinks man in the next.
Some players were at least ‘dropped’ after a failure or two. Spare a thought for Karun Nair, who was dropped even without playing a competitive match for India in their recent tour to England. He warmed the bench in the first four Tests and was then subjected to the ignominy of watching Hanuma Vihari—parachuted into the 18-man squad ahead of the fourth side—make his Test debut in the fifth. If that wasn’t all, the think tank delivered a coup de grace in the form of altogether dumping him from the home series against West Indies.
Nobody deserves to be treated in this manner, stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma—a player who has warmed the bench under Kohli—subtly hinted at after winning the Asia Cup. “As a management, it is our duty to give the players that freedom to go play like they play at the club or domestic level. At the start of the tournament, we told them this: ‘treat this like you are playing for your domestic team.’ It was very important to give them this message, to ensure there’s no insecurity within.” Worst of all was the radio silence between the think tank and the player himself. The 26-year-old, who would have been better off playing elsewhere rather than mixing protein shakes on the ground, said there was no conversation. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be in team sports. While there is a set hierarchy, communication is a two-way street. More cases like Karun will only arise in the coming weeks and months if this isn’t resolved.