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WCT20 debacle: Fake aggro & wokeism are no substitutes for on-field performances

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Indian cricket team is officially out of the current T20 World Cup being played in UAE. Hopes of progressing into the knockouts were however dashed due to Team India’s spineless performance in the first two crucial games itself. It was all over, barring the noise, by a largely clueless and hero worshipping media. The ad world, which depends on fan frenzy to push their sales, did try to artificially ratchet up hopes. But ordinary fans who follow the game for the love of it, had given up on this team long back. When a top ranked team has to depend on an improbable win by a lower ranked Afg over NZL, it anyway does not augur well for  Indian cricket. While India has won and lost many world cup matches in the past, its abject surrender and the dogged refusal of  captain Kohli to course correct, is something which rankles ordinary fans more than the match results. 

The reason probably is that Kohli, with his carefully groomed image, designer beard, rippling six pack abs and cultivated image of “in your face” aggression (aggro), quickly morphed into a  brand which had a cult following among the youth. It was brand “Kohli” which became a hot selling product for the franchise. Hence the lack of results at RCB probably did not matter to the owners and the commercial managers. No wonder, almost the entire young brigade of Indian cricketers looking upto Kohli, soon donned groomed beards, six packs and designer tattoos and chose to speak thru their stage managed twitter accounts instead of letting their on field exploits speak for them. In the bilateral ODIs/T20s & even tests, which are organized almost like a circus moving on from venue to venue, competition is perhaps not as intense as in knockout tournaments like ICC/World cups.

Besides, the longer drawn bilateral series always gives chances to make comebacks after making  mistakes. Sadly, world cups and test championships, where opposition is looking for even small openings, mistakes tend to be costly. Kohli’s whimsical team selections, persisting with pinch hitters like Pant & Pandya as batsmen in test cricket, shunting a classical bat like Rahane up & down the order in tests and in and out of shorter formats, confusing a purist like Pujara with the need to get quick runs, are some of the perplexing Kohli decisions which have harmed Indian cricket in the recent past.

While credit is due to Kohli in developing an aggressive “in your face” pace battery capable of taking 20 wickets in foreign conditions, a rarity in the past, the batting standards have dipped under him. Getting bundled out for a paltry 36 runs in the recent Aussie  tour was perhaps the lowest point in Indian test batting history.  Early part of Kohli’s record was perhaps shielded by the on field support of Dhoni.  The legendary Mr Cool, quietly took away a large part of fielding and bowling burdens off his shoulder. And as Kohli got hot under the collar as he frequently ran out out of ideas, he had Dhoni’s brains to pick who would generally have plans from A to Z and more. However once Dhoni called quits, Kohli’s mistakes in the shorter formats became more and more stark & glaring.

The exit from WCT20 is perhaps the culmination of a series of mistakes made by Kohli and the team management. Sad part is that Kohli, under the burden of his own brand, surrounded himself with hero worshippers and acolytes, failed to hear to sane advises or see the writing on the wall. T20 is a game of innovators and specialists. The thumb rule for success is to have 7-8 T20 specialists and 3-4 “all format” regulars. Indian team had almost the reverse composition. None of the top three batsmen or bowlers of the recently concluded IPL, found a place in the Indian T20WC squad. What is the use of having the best T20 league in the world, if instead of IPL’s top performers, test cricketers like Shami and Ashwin find a place in T20WC squad. Once the inquisition began after the humiliating losses against Pak & NZ, rather than taking it on the chin, Kohli started waving the victim card.

He started attributing the criticism as some sort of vendetta for his wokeism, as evidenced from his “safe diwali” and “I stand with Shami” campaigns. He has a right, like any other citizen, to express himself on SM. But like all others, he too has to understand that SM is an open platform with no privileges on offer. If you decide to preach woke “gyaan” on SM, you have to be prepared to take the blowback as well. While its OK for him to go after random trolls criticizing Shami, he cannot escape the moot question about what a classical test bowler like Shami was doing in WCT20 squad, in the first place. Him hiding behind wokeism and playing the victim card, is not going to help either him or Indian cricket.

As he steps down from captaincy, its time for him to hit the reset button. He still is a great batsman and its up to him to decide whether to move beyond the “cloak & dagger” intrigues of the team and take a genuine shot at becoming the G.O.A.T (Greatest of all times) of world cricket. Cups or no cups, his legacy of unbridled aggression and “giving back as good as you get” attitude has redefined Indian cricket forever. Good luck King Kohli!

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