On the evening of 16 September, Virat Kohli posted a message on social media that he will be stepping down from India captaincy in the T20I format. A little while later (an hour and a half approximately), the Board of Control for Cricket in India issued a statement of their own. It had a quote from the board president and former captain Sourav Ganguly, followed by another from the secretary Jay Shah. It also had Kohli’s statement from Twitter added to the end.

Right, that seemed fair. The Indian captain spoke about his workload needing to be managed. “Understanding workload is a very important thing and considering my immense workload over the last 8-9 years playing all 3 formats and captaining regularly for last 5-6 years, I feel I need to give myself space to be fully ready to lead the Indian Team in Test and ODI Cricket,” he had said. (Emphasis on the last line there).

And Ganguly and Shah had nothing but nice things to say in their press release. “I have been in discussions with Virat and the leadership team for the last six months and the decision has been thought through,” Shah’s statement said. “He is one of the most successful captains in all the formats. The decision has been made keeping in mind the future roadmap,” added the statement attributed to Ganguly.

Now, cut to 8 December. The BCCI has issued a statement announcing the Test squad to face South Africa in South Africa. And in that, as a footnote, a line reads: “The All-India Senior Selection Committee also decided to name Mr Rohit Sharma as the Captain of the ODI and T20I teams going forward.”

So, from Kohli clearing time and wanting to lead the team in two formats and the board endorsing it, to him being relieved from captaincy in two international formats, what changed? In the ensuing period, the only international white-ball cricket Indian men have played is the T20 World Cup and the three T20I matches against New Zealand at home.

Sure, the results were not ideal in the World Cup. But Kohli was already on his way out. Sure, India clean swept New Zealand in three T20Is at home and even the new head coach Rahul Dravid said that there is not too much to read into it. Evidently, New Zealand were playing on fumes, a few hours after their heartbreak at the T20 World Cup final. Don’t read too much into it, said the new Indian head coach.

When there has been no ODI cricket in the recent past and the T20I decision was already made for them, what prompted the All-India Senior Selection Committee to make this move?

This is not even to question whether the move is the right one or not. Even outgoing coach Ravi Shastri said that split captaincy was inevitable in times of bio-secure bubbles and mental fatigue.

But the way the BCCI has dealt with it has led to more questions than answers when perhaps none were needed.

Forget the media... the board and those covering the game don’t exactly get along. Almost every other information from the BCCI is revealed to the public through a variety of unnamed officials. One rarely gets to see an official quote in media about issues that raise questions. But that is the finer point. Whether the board owes this to media or whether the media is entitled to such information, is a topic for another day.

“People on the outside can say whatever they want” is a line we keep hearing from Indian cricket bigwigs. Kohli uses that often himself. It is no secret that it is part of the siege mentality that he and his team thrive on. It is why they do so well when pushed against the wall. And we must sympathise with it when there is unnecessary speculation about what goes inside the dressing room. It is a sacred space for athletes and when it is invaded by leaks and outside opinion, they can turn bullish.

But when the official communication is this poor regarding a decision as big as changing the captain, it helps absolutely no one.

For now, though, think about the fans. In any sport, the fans really should be the lifeblood of the game. They occupy the seats in the stadium, they subscribe to the many streaming platforms that show the matches, they drive things forward. Years like 2020 and 2021 should only reiterate how much even the athletes depend on fans to bring out their best.

But now these fans of the biggest name in the sport right now are left wondering a) why this decision was taken, b) why now and c) how was it arrived at. Surely even Rohit Sharma’s fans would be wondering what he thinks about this decision.

At the time of publishing, the fans have nothing to go with but speculation. Even if you believe that right decision has been taken to move Indian cricket forward, surely “Virat [who] has been a true asset for Indian Cricket and has led with aplomb” deserved to be more than an afterthought?

Part of all that could be answered without even calling for press conferences from All-India Senior Selection Committee (assuming the decision was indeed theirs). It could even be explained with a carefully worded statement in their press release.

Instead, they just added an “also” line to the end and tried to put a full stop to it.

Update: A tweet was posted by BCCI on 9 December, around 6 pm IST

Also read:

Indian cricket: Rohit Sharma replaces Virat Kohli as ODI captain, to lead in both white-ball formats

India’s squad for SA Test series: Rohit Sharma named vice captain, Ravindra Jadeja among absentees

Critical that Dravid, Kohli & Rohit have a common vision: Reactions to India naming new ODI captain