Reports of a rift between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma did the rounds on social media and even mainstream media for quite some time after the World Cup last year. However, with time, those reports died out as both the players didn't show any difficulty in playing with each other. But now, signs of another rift may have surfaced.
In the press conference after the third day's play during the first Test match between India and New Zealand, played at Wellington's Basin Reserve Stadium, the off-spinner was asked a question about the absence of a fielder at deep-extra cover when he was bowling to Kane Williamson. Ashwin's answer was very interesting.
"If you look at Kane Williamson's wagon wheel, I would have put it right up if it was up to me because Kane, against off-spinner, always looked to hit through covers. He doesn't cut or step out much either," he said.
Now these comments in isolation may be attributed to Ashwin being a bit more of an 'intellectual' in the side, somebody who thinks more about tactics and strategy than others. However, there have been murmurs about the relationship between Kohli and Ashwin and the latter's ambition to become the Indian captain.
One may also recall how Kohli had reacted during a match between his Indian Premier League (IPL) team Royal Challengers Bangalore and Ashwin's Kings XI Punjab after he took the latter's catch close to the boundary line. The Indian captain almost seemed to angrily mock the Kings XI captain's act of 'Mankading' a batsman earlier in the tournament.
One can also see how Ashwin's bowling hasn't been as successful of late under Kohli's captaincy. The fastest man to 300 Test wickets has not been as prolific in taking wickets in the last two years as he was earlier. Some of that is due to Indian pace bowlers becoming more incisive and partly due to less opportunities. But there has been a decline in his performance as well.
Now, Ashwin had a great chemistry with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, his captain in Chennai Super Kings as well as the Indian team. One wonders whether the offie is not as comfortable with Kohli's captaincy as he was with Dhoni. When he indirectly castigates his captain for not having the best field, which he effectively did through this latest statement, one wonders about Kohli's reaction.
So, watch this space. Who knows whether this story will also develop into something serious.