Bangalore can wait. India can’t.

The 2019 cricket World Cup is just over 45 days away and it requires Virat Kohli to be at his best mentally and physically.

Virat Kohli should consider resigning from the captaincy of the Royal Challengers Bangalore. He should also consider taking a break from cricket for a while and return to the World Cup in a better state of mind. This isn’t to take moral responsibility for the team’s abysmal showing in this year’s IPL so far but it’s because team India needs him more than his franchise. The IPL comes along every year. The World Cup comes along once in 4 years.

Of course, there is a lot at stake in the IPL and Kohli, even though the franchise he captains is in doldrums, can’t just step down without some sort of an outcry.

It might seem like a life time away but a younger Kohli has seen worse in the same franchise.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore has had a chequered run at the IPL. Their beginning was anything but auspicious and their first season an abject disaster. In the first ever match of the IPL in 2008, Brendon McCullum, donning the Kolkata Knight Riders uniform, tore the Bangalore attack to shreds and the  Kolkata Knight Riders amassed 222 runs. Bangalore crumbled for 82, losing the match by a massive 140 runs. The team, which was fondly dubbed as a ‘test team’ as it featured a surfeit of test players like Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble  got a sense of what it was like to be owned by a business conglomerate who wanted to win at any cost. The flamboyant Vijay Mallya, who is today a fugitive from justice and fighting extradition in UK, sacked Charu Sharma who was the team CEO halfway through the tournament, threatened to sack Venkatesh Prasad who was the bowling coach and fumed about how Rahul Dravid didn’t allow him to pick the squad of his choice. All of this played out in the public eye.

According to rumors, executives from Vijay Mallya’s company sat in on team meetings and gave their two cents worth of advice. By the end of the season, the great Rahul Dravid was removed as captain and Kevin Pietersen was roped in. That move didn’t help and the team’s performances didn’t see an improvement. It was after Anil Kumble took over the captaincy halfway through the 2009 edition that the team went on winning run, reaching the finals, only to lose to the Deccan Chargers (today known as Sunrisers Hyderabad).

Mallya’s ill-fated moves weren’t just limited to his disastrous airline. In 2014, RCB bought Yuvraj Singh for a whopping 14 crores and employees of his airline staged protests as they hadn’t received a salary in months.

They again reached the finals in 2016 and lost to the Sunrisers in the final.

It’s the 12th year of the IPL and by the looks of it, Bangalore has to wait for the next season to raise its hopes again. After last year’s lackadaisical show, the team made a change to its support staff by removing head coach Daniel Vettori and bringing in Gary Kirsten. Ashish Nehra seems to have retained his job because of the Delhi connection, the same way Rahul Dravid stepped in to stop then bowling coach of the franchise Venkatesh Prasad from being sacked by an irate and loony Vijay Mallya. Kohli, who has been accused of being stubborn and having his way, as it was in the case of the Anil Kumble fiasco, will have a lot to answer for. He must thank his stars that he is not going through what Rahul Dravid did in the first season when dirty laundry was aired in public and legends were treated with impunity. He is probably one of the most powerful men in Indian cricket but franchise cricket plays by a different set of rules. For someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, whose face is a barometer of his emotions, a losing streak isn’t the ideal scenario.

MS Dhoni, on the other hand, is the face of calm. Even when the team was getting routed and whitewashed in England and Australia and his name cropped up in the IPL spot fixing scandal, he didn’t give excuses or leak stuff to the media. He was accused of being indifferent. On the other hand, Kohli is accused of never being able to contain his emotions.

Virat Kohli isn’t one to step back from a fight. Some of his most audacious and breat- taking innings have come when the team’s back is against the wall. In the same vein, he probably regards giving up captaincy as a cop out, like admitting failure. Again, he doesn’t have to go too far back in time to see that captaincy is a double-edged sword.

Sachin Tendulkar’s stints at captaincy were not very memorable.

Rahul Dravid was beaten and bruised by the shocking first round exit in the 2007 World Cup and after leading India to a victory in a test series in England after 21 years, returned and abruptly resigned from captaincy.

No one said they were quitters. Captaincy is just not everyone’s cup of tea.

The IPL has always had an uneasy relationship with international cricket. Players have been accused of putting club over country, been picked on IPL form only to flounder in international cricket and stretched themselves too thin because their franchises demanded that they play even when they were not fully fit.

Great players don’t necessarily become great captains and great captains aren’t always the best players in the team.

Virat Kohli, even though he fell a few notches down in my books after he displaced my childhood hero Anil Kumble from his position, is no doubt one the greatest players to have ever played the game.

Bangalore can wait another season. It has already gone 12 years without an IPL title. Cleveland went 53 years without winning a single sports title and it took Le Bron James to lift the curse. Bangalore isn’t that unlucky. Bangalore FC is among the best football teams in the country and won the most recent ISL.

Having the IPL just before the World Cup lends itself to the high probability of players injuring themselves. But no one thinks about what a poor showing in the tournament does to a player’s state of mind before he enters the World Cup.

Whether Virat Kohli can sustain his intensity as player and captain without burning out is left to be seen. Whatever he does, he must be rest assured that he is one of the greatest players to play the game and given his extraordinary fitness, he has a few more good years to further fortify his legend.

No doubt questions will again be asked at the end of this IPL season about the franchise. It’s inevitable. Why haven’t RCB failed to win the IPL even once and what is the reason for their poor showing is a Chinese puzzle that can’t be solved easily. This time, Kohli himself may find it hard to escape scrutiny.

But for now, Kohli should consider giving up captaincy, taking a few matches off and getting ready for the World Cup.

India needs him. Bangalore can wait.


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