It is safe to say that Virat Kohli has not been enjoying his time in the Indian Premier League with his franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore. The Indian captain had boldly stated that the T20 tournament will have no bearing on World Cup selection and even asked his players not to pick up any bad habits. Two weeks into the tournament, it seems as though captain Kohli has picked up a few bad habits of his own.
RCB is off to a dismal start having lost all of their first four games and on two of those occasions, the team lost face too – bundled out for 70 in the first match and then capitulating after conceding 231 in the third. Every season RCB starts with great hope of finally winning the trophy but midway through the season, hope gives way to despair. The franchise seems to have tried almost everything but has not been able to crack the code.
Thus, one wonders, is it time to try the one thing that the franchise has not given a shot? Ask Virat Kohli to step down. Kohli has a near spotless record as the captain of the Indian side but for RCB, the numbers do not speak well. In the history of the IPL, for any captain with 50 games, he has the worst win percentage. The overbearing narrative in Kohli's defence states that a captain can only be as good as his players but there have been plenty of examples of how a captain has made unlikely heroes in the IPL.
MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir are three of the most successful captains in the IPL. One thing each one of them has been successfully able to do is getting the best out of players one would not expect much out of. Dhoni is a master beyond compare at taking pieces of a jigsaw and fitting them perfectly to make picturesque viewing. He started with the likes of Manpreet Gony and Shadab Jakati in 2008; 11 years later he is still doing it with Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur.
The KKR franchise's success under Gambhir came after three years of extreme disappointment. He backed his players and used his bits-and-pieces players like Rajat Bhatia to his fullest potential. It started with filling the correct slots at the auction and not marquee players. For far too long, RCB's mantra has been to pick players rather than fill slots. The difference between the two is when one fills a slot, one has a requirement in mind and not a player. This ensures that a franchise does not end up overpaying for a particular player.
Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, seems to have a very good scouting system which has given them the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and the Pandya brothers. But RCB does not have a strategy at the auctions as they have not been able to address their death bowling and neither is their captain getting more out of his players.
Kohli is known to be a trigger happy captain, frequently chopping and changing players without giving them a decent run of games. It happens with the India team too but with the national team, the players are the cream of the crop. He is immensely benefitted by having a readymade supply of high-performing individuals who are a product of the highly monetized and efficient system that BCCI has developed over the years.
In over four years of his captaincy, there's not a single player one can point out clearly saying that he is a product of captain Kohli. Sourav Ganguly had a plethora of such names, a lot of whom helped India win the 2011 World Cup and so does Dhoni. That is necessarily not a problem with regards to the national setup given the riches of India's cricketing structure but in a league where everyone is equal and a skipper has to get the best out of his talent, Kohli has not been successful.
In fact, India's sole problem since 2015 has been finding a solution for the number 4 slot and even that has remained unresolved. Perhaps every player is not equipped to handle Kohli's high-performing style of leadership. Some may just need an arm around the shoulder and security of a decent run of games. Captain Kohli did not want to the IPL to have any bearing on a player's World Cup berth IPL but he might just have to resort to the T20 tournament given his inability to find a solution for the number 4 problem while captaining the national side.
A correct decision on that front might finally give fruit to the slogan "Ee sala cup namde" but wearing a different jersey, in a different country, in a different month and the said cup will be the World Cup.