A time for unity

India has enjoyed decade-plus success on the cricket field, to see it being undone by innuendo is bizarre

Ten years ago if you predicted that a sporting crisis would be ignited by one cricketer ‘unfollowing’ another on social media, you would have been branded a moron. Frankly, many of us believe that this talk even today is moronic. But guess what, we are in the midst of an Instagram-induced crisis in the Indian cricket team. Apparently, the vice-captain of the team, Rohit Sharma, has unfollowed the captain, Virat Kohli and his wife, the Bollywood star Anushka Sharma, on the social media service. Many believe that with today’s carefully image-manicured sports personalities, this is a carefully thought out move by Sharma, expressing his displeasure at Kohli and his style of captaincy and thus sending a message to the selectors staking his claim to be captain, at least of the white-ball cricket side. In a world of fragile egos, it is actually quite hard to read into this ‘unfollowing’ incident and Kohli has come out and called the whole episode ridiculous.

One major reason for the tremendous success of the Indian cricket team over the past decade in all three formats of the game has been a level of relative team stability and a united front. It is also true that there are obvious cracks within every sporting unit and often success is the plaster of Paris that papers over them. There is a feeling among some in the team that India’s performance at the World Cup this summer in England was tepid and that Kohli’s leadership was not as aggressive as it usually is and much like in the Royal Challengers Bengaluru, Kohli’s franchise T20 team, he should quit the captaincy and let someone else handle it, that someone else being Rohit Sharma. What makes matters worse is that Sharma, being from Mumbai and Kohli from Delhi makes this a battle between the two power-centres of Indian cricket, the Mumbai lobby feeling that in Sharma they finally have someone to step into the shoes of Gavaskar and Tendulkar. And it is no surprise that Gavaskar has commented on the issue. Whatever happens going forward — and we feel that there should be no hasty decisions made that will compromise the competitiveness of the Indian cricket team — it has to be remembered that intra-team rivalries have often driven teams on to great success. India’s amazing success in the early-to-mid 1980s was when Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were in a near civil war. In 1992, the Pakistani team won the World Cup despite issues between Javed Miandad and most of his teammates. There are umpteen more examples in professional team sports where rivalries between players have not precluded huge success. But one must not forget the role of money here. Being Indian cricket captain has made Virat Kohli India’s most marketable star and that could be the crux of the issue.

The Pioneer