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Thursday, September 16, 2021

the art of stepping down while on top ! - strategic move by Virat !!

In  Prudential World Cup 1975  tense finals – the mighty West Indies were put in  by Ian Chappell  and were   in a spot of bother at 50 for 3, big Bertha strolled to the middle. A hooked six off Dennis Lillee set the tone as Clive  Lloyd careened to an 82-ball hundred -   led his team to 291 from their 60 overs.   Following illustrious predecessors like -  Gerry Alexander,  Frank Worrel,  Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai-  Clive Lloyd,  became an icon.  The ineffable Lloyd  who had battery of pace bowlers won 64 of the 84 matches that he captained and won both the 1975 inaugural and 1979 edition of Prudential World Cup in England.

Remember with tinge of sadness that ODI 931 at   Nahar Singh Stadium, Faridabad on  Oct 17 1994 - Stuart Williams, Shivnarine Chanderpaul & Cameron Cuffy made their debuts.  Windies scored 273/5 and India chasing made only 177, losing the match by 96 runs.  Guess, why ?!?

The first price of popularity is that one is hounded quite often of ‘retirement’……… the great genius writer Sujatha in his heydays was confronted in a student’s forum with the Q  : Sir, when will you stop writing ? Pat came the reply – ‘in the night ~ when I feel too sleepy’………… ~ one need not be guided by the Q and can have one’s own way !! The Genius Little Master  SAchin Tendulkar was haunted with the Q of his retirement .. .. and so many critics were speaking of the retirement of the mercurial Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The mercurial MSD surprised everyone on 30.12.2014 – the boxing test had just been drawn and Dhoni was 24* - 4 overs left with 4 wickets in hand – MSD made no mention during the customary Captain’s press conference at the end of the match.  Then a BCCI release stated that MSD had resigned citing the strain of playing all formats. We thought that 2020 will see MSD striking it rich in IPL and turn for India in T20 WC 2020 – but Covid-19 changed lives and now he has become mentor !

The big news is - Virat Kohli has announced he will step down as India's T20 captain after the conclusion of the upcoming T20 World Cup. He wants to continue as Test and ODI captain, however. Kohli announced his decision on Twitter, saying he made it with his workload in mind as a three-format player, and that he has already spoken about it with BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, secretary Jay Shah, and the selectors. He said he arrived at his decision after "a lot of contemplation and discussions with my close people", including India head coach Ravi Shastri and the white-ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma, who has already led India in 19 T20Is when Kohli has been rested.

"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," Kohli said. "I have given everything to the Team during my time as T20 Captain and I will continue to do so for the T20 Team as a batsman moving forward."

The development comes exactly eight days after Kohli sat with the selectors to finalise the India squad for the T20 World Cup, which will be played in the UAE in October-November.   Yesterday I was searching the web for the wickets that he took – 8 International wickets in all .. .. and was overawed with the statistics.   An Under-19 world Cup-winning captain, when he burst onto the scene, Kohli was a precocious talent with a cover drive to kill for.  He seamlessly transformed to take the role of Sachin Tendulkar and perhaps has even better numbers.  He was widely credited and criticized by some too,  for changing the fitness culture in Indian cricket, introducing endurance tests as a criterion for selection.  Statistically he has 7765 runs in 96 tests at an average of 51.08 with 27 centuries and equal 50s; 12169 ODI runs in 254 matches at an average of 59.07 and strike rate of 93.17 with 43 tons !! - + 3159 T20I runs at 52.65 average and 139.04 strike rate … .. dream figures indeed !!

.. .. a peaceful happy retirement is what most office-goers would yearn .. this simple act which would occur to every living person in Govt / PSU is not all that easy in Private sector, is what experience has shown. Call it Covid-19 effect, a cash-strapped TN government last year  increased the retirement age of its staff from 58 years to 59 years to defer an outgo of Rs.5,000 crore towards retirement benefits for the current fiscal. More than 25,000 government employees were set to superannuate in that  financial year.  Though some Unions welcomed the move,  some others like Joint action council of Tamil Nadu teachers’ organisations and government employees’ organisations strongly condemned the move, saying it would adversely affect job opportunity of youngsters and delay promotions of senior employees.  The MGR government raised the age of superannuation from 55 to 58 years in Tamil Nadu in April 1979.  

Kapil Dev, the greatest all-rounder for India played  131 Test matches,  scored 5248 runs in 184 innings at an average of 31.05 with 8 hundreds and 27 half-centuries. In 131 tests, he took 434 wickets at 29.64 with 23 five-wicket hauls and best bowling figures of 9 for 83 against the West Indies.  In One dayers (always remember WC 1983) he scored 3783 runs (175* highest) and took 253 wickets in 221 innings.

On that day at Faridabad – Kapil Dev was not given the new ball – Manoj Prabhakar, Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble and Rajesh Chauhan bowled 10 overs each – while Sachin bowled 5.  It was sad and sickening and even made me cry when Kapil who walked from deep square leg assuming to bowl the next over,  was unceremoniously sent back by the Captain Azharuddin.  Kapil in his normal self having completed 5 overs walked towards the Umpire, but the ball was sort of snatched by the Captain. For me in someways, Cricket was never the same thereafter ! – exceptional wrong treatment of a Senior on his retirement.

Clive Lloyd’s playing days were glorious – he inflicted 5-0 whitewash on England twice and sort of demolished every other team. B u t, the end of the great Captain was different – in the 5th  Test at Sydney in Dec 1984 – leggie Bob Holland and a little known left arm spinner Murray Bennet spun WI to a defeat – that was his last test.  Months later, in the Semis of  Benson & Hedges WC at Melbourne on 6.3.1985 – the formidable West Indies were bowled out for 159 with part time bowler Mudassar Nazar taking 5 wickets.  Thus he lost his last match too  as Captain !

Looking at all these, the decision of Virat Kohli is really a well-crafted move, perhaps, he has given an extended lease of life to thyself  .. .. Shrewd Kohli ! – understand that this is ‘only stepping down’ and not retirement -  yet not all know the art of moving away while on top !! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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