In December 2008, one had the chance to interact with then recently-retired Sourav Ganguly. Among the many questions, one was pretty obvious.

“Those were some ordinary days (for Indian cricket), an ordinary way (of dealing with things),” he said, about the Greg Chappell controversy. Indeed, it was no manner to treat an Indian captain, especially of Ganguly’s standing.

Ironically enough, that statement holds true in 2021 as well. The way BCCI has dealt with the transition of ODI captaincy from Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma is pretty ordinary as well, to say the least. The worst bit? Ganguly himself is at the heart of this controversy.

In his role as BCCI president, Ganguly had no business putting out public statements regarding matters of selection. What blurs the line is his past as a former Indian skipper and a celebrated batsman. Thrust the microphone in his face, and he sings. Was this whole process wrong? Yes. Did he lie to the Indian cricket fraternity in a very public manner? Who knows!

Considering what Kohli then said in his fiery press conference, it is one man’s word against another, with social media playing judge, jury and executioner.

That the BCCI should have dealt with this situation better is obvious. But when has that ever really happened? Even so, this isn’t about how an explosive situation spiralled out of control. Instead, it is about the aftermath which surrounds one man, most of all.

Let us begin with how Kohli must have felt during this turbulent time period. Lonely and betrayed are two words that come to mind.

The latter, because, of who he is. Kohli’s contribution to Indian cricket, both as player and as captain, has been immense. He is the star, before any other name even crops up on the team sheet. He sells Indian cricket, not only in this country but also overseas.

Remember how the Australian media and broadcasters went into frenzy last year? That was despite his absence from the majority of India’s tour, and only underlines his superstardom. If Sachin Tendulkar introduced that word into Indian cricket dictionary, Kohli has lived up to the very definition of it, period.

Then, there are the statistics. 5449 runs in 95 matches – an average of 72.65 as ODI captain, way ahead of AB de Villier’s 63.94. 21 hundreds as ODI skipper, second only to Ricky Ponting’s 22, and a winning percentage of 70.43, the best by an Indian captain and third-best in international cricket.

There is more, if you look beyond the numbers. Kohli ensured a smooth transition, across formats, when MS Dhoni gave up captaincy. Yes, he didn’t win an ICC trophy but the standards of Indian cricket didn’t fall off a cliff either.

Barring the recent T20 World Cup, India was the team to beat, whether in the 2019 ODI World Cup, the 2017 Champions Trophy or even the 2021 World Test Championship. There is no numeric valuation you can attach to that.

And this is where that first word – lonely – comes into the narrative.

Through all his years of success, Kohli has been a unique character in many ways. The one that stands out is his non-existent relationship with the media. Perhaps he learnt this from Dhoni, but not entirely. When on the field, you feed off Kohli’s infectious energy. When off the field, Kohli is reclusive, fiercely guarding his privacy. Unlike Dhoni, who maintained a stoic stance in both regards, Kohli almost always gave us a taste of his personality and aura, yet forced everyone into maintaining a distance.

Perhaps he took cognizance of this distancing during that press conference. His words were fiery, in one direction only, and affable in all mannerisms otherwise. As such, his words gave a pointed reflection into his mindset – Kohli simply wants to get on with the game, and that can only be a good thing. Whatever happens on the field, when the talking stops, is what eventually matters.

Will he right a few wrongs going forward as Indian Test skipper? Maybe, for there is always a lesson learnt in every experience even if you are a world-class athlete. And Kohli is the world’s – not India’s alone – leading Test cricketer. He breathes life into this format, and to a large extent, it is his dogged determination that is keeping Test cricket relevant. Just turn back the pages a couple weeks before this controversy, and the Indian team wore a different outlook traversing from Kanpur to Mumbai against world champions New Zealand. In terms of energy alone, Kohli was that difference.

There is a bigger battle beyond captaincy, though, and its value is measured in batting charts. They haven’t been flowing off late, an understatement. His Test form (current 12-month average 28.41) is a pale shadow of a recent glorious past (career average 50.65). Kohli is without an international hundred since November 2019, more than two years now. It is ever more noticeable with every outing now, across formats.

Runs, then, are the cure of Kohli’s discontent, and fate, it seems, is not without a touch of irony again. Post that Chappell controversy, Ganguly went back to domestic cricket and etched out runs, soon returning to international cricket an in-form batsman who prolonged his international career. It is not to say Kohli should return to domestic cricket, no. Instead, he needs to take a quiet leaf from Ganguly’s book and emulate the relative lack of attention that comes with playing in India’s vast domestic wilderness.

An overseas tour played behind closed doors might just be the remedy. In a socially distanced world, he needs to shut himself out from the abounding noise even further. He has to win this lonesome battle, nowhere else but at the batting crease, and he must in South Africa, for the sake of Indian cricket.

The world, as always, will be watching Virat Kohli.