Editor’s note: This article was published before BCCI confirmed late on Thursday that Rohit Sharma will be assessed on December 11; it has now been updated to reflect the new developments.
On the night Rohit Sharma was not named in any of the three squads to tour Australia, former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar had called for more transparency regarding the nature of the injury sustained by the opener. His observation had come after the Board of Control for Cricket in India had said his fitness was being monitored, but then Mumbai Indians (Rohit’s IPL team) proceeded to publish a video of him batting in the nets.
“We are talking about the Test matches, which are a month and a half way,” Gavaskar had told broadcaster Star Sports. “And if he is practising in the nets for Mumbai Indians, then honestly I don’t know what kind of injury it is. I think a little bit of transparency, a little bit of openness about what actually is the problem with him will help everybody.”
Gavaskar had gone on to add: “The Indian cricket fan deserves to know, more than anything else. The franchisees, I understand. They don’t want to give their hand away. They don’t want to give the oppositions any psychological advantage. But we are talking about the Indian team here.”
As it turns out, Gavaskar was being rather naive. When Virat Kohli, the India captain, doesn’t know what is happening with Rohit Sharma, what chance does a fan have?
On the eve of the ODI series against Australia, Kohli finally shed light on just how poorly the entire issue has been managed by everyone involved.
“Before the selection meeting (in Dubai in October), we got a mail two days before which said that he’s unavailable for selection. He’s picked up an injury during the IPL and it mentioned that there’s a two-week rest and rehab period,” Kohli said.
“It said that the pros and cons and the implications of the injuries have been explained to him and he understood that. And he was unavailable for selection and that was the information that we got on mail before the selection meeting. After that, he played in the IPL so we all thought that he’s going to be on that flight to Australia, which he wasn’t.
“And we had no information on whatsoever reason for why he’s not travelling with us. And after that, the only other information officially we’ve received on mail is that he’s at the NCA and he’s been assessed, and he’ll be further assessed on 11th December.”
Kohli added: “From the time that the selection meeting happened to the IPL finishing, and now when this email came about his assessment in the NCA, there’s been no information, there’s been lack of clarity and we’ve been playing the waiting game on this issue for a while now; which is not ideal at all. So, yeah it’s been very confusing and there’s been a lot of uncertainty and a lack of clarity around the situation.”
Kohli cited the example of Wriddhiman Saha, who was also injured during the IPL, but had travelled with the squad to Australia and was making progress on his fitness.
“Would have definitely increased the chances of both of them playing Test matches (Rohit and Ishant travelling to Australia with the squad from UAE). Someone like Saha who had an injury during the IPL is here doing his rehab. So we’re aware of his progress and he’s on the right path to make sure that he’s fit and available in time to play the series.
“And same would have been the case with Ishant and Rohit as well. It would have given them a chance to get themselves fit and be available for the start of the Test series.”
“Right now there’s so much uncertainty on whether they’re going to be able to make it, if they’re going to be able to make it at all or not. It definitely would have been very helpful in them getting fit if they were here and doing the rehab just like Saha is with the team to be fit for the Test series,” the Indian captain added.
All this on the day before a marquee bilateral series against an arch-rival.
A big mess
Now, three major points emerge from Kohli’s interview:
1. Kohli has, at least on record, never been one to come out and reveal what is happening behind the scenes to the press or the public at large. For him to have come out and explained things in such detail leads one to believe that the BCCI is perhaps giving him the cold shoulder. Evidently exasperated, the Indian skipper has been made to feel he had no choice but to come clean about the mess. This was Kohli trying to wash his hands of the matter and saying, in no uncertain terms, that this situation was beyond him.
2. What was the BCCI thinking? Were they thinking about India first or were they fighting a petty battle with someone? The Board and its president Sourav Ganguly’s only concern should have been to try and ensure that India had its best players in Australia. The “hard quarantine” situation was known, there were no flights from India to Australia and the two players could have an impact in the Test matches. So as they did with Saha, could (or rather should) the BCCI have sent Rohit and Ishant to Australia? Ganguly, having been a former India skipper himself, should have been able to imagine the difficult situation this was creating for Kohli and it would have been easy for him to get on the phone and have a conversation with him. But he clearly hasn’t or Kohli wouldn’t have spoken as he did.
3. Kohli mentions that the nature of the injury was explained to Rohit before the selection meeting. But despite that, the latter turned out to play for the Mumbai Indians and repeated he was fine more than once. The BCCI still hasn’t revealed whether Rohit has a torn hamstring or merely a strained one, so it’s hard to say what is really happening. But it does beg the following questions: Did Rohit play for the Mumbai Indians knowing that it might put his entire Australia tour at risk? Did he ignore advice from BCCI physios? What is the role of the Mumbai Indians in this entire fracas? And finally, is this just the BCCI with an axe to grind against Rohit?
Update: The BCCI responds
The BCCI responded to Kohli’s press conference but sending out a press release at 11:48 pm on Thursday night. Among other matters, the release stated: “Rohit Sharma had to come back to Mumbai after the IPL to attend to his ailing father. His father is now recuperating well and that has allowed him to travel to the NCA and start his rehabilitation.”
Given that Kohli had spoken just a few hours earlier, it seems rather shocking that neither the BCCI nor Rohit had deemed it wise to inform the India captain about the situation.
Kohli clearly didn’t know Rohit’s father was unwell, and while it is absolutely fine to want privacy at such moments, a simple statement from Rohit implying that he had a ‘family emergency’ would have been enough to calm the waters. But instead, here we are.
This is probably not the last we are hearing of this issue. This is turning into the sort of standoffs we see in Westerns, with fingers being pointed at more than one direction (obviously or subtly). Rest assured, it can only be resolved if all those concerned drop their egos and do what is best for India.
That, however, doesn’t seem to be the priority here. Perhaps, it never was.