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Kohli stepping down-A decision in the offing for months

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As much as it came as a shock to the cricketing world, Virat Kohli’s decision to step down from T20I captaincy seemingly did not come as a surprise for many within the BCCI, with the decision being in the works many months prior to the actual announcement.

While media reports made these decisions public last week and despite refutations from the board afterwards, Kohli put an end to speculations by putting out a statement on Thursday (September 16) citing workload management as the prime rationale behind the move.

As early as July, soon after the World Test Championship final, there were murmurs in the corridors of power about an impending change at the top. Apart from the need to regain his own heights as a batsman, which Kohli indicates he intends to pursue by giving up T20I captaincy, there had been indications of additional pressure of captaincy revealing itself.

With a new selection committee and an impending change in the coaching set up, Kohli’s challenges were on the rise.

For instance, he had to fight hard to have Shikhar Dhawan in the ODI squad for the India-England series in February- March this year. The selectors, it is learnt, wanted to have another opener who did well in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Kohli had insisted that Dhawan, who had by then lost his place in the Twenty20 squad, was a must.

It is a different matter that the selectors had to appoint Dhawan as captain for the ODIs in an entirely different scenario (for the Sri Lanka series). So hot was the debate in that March meeting, that the BCCI had to wait for some sort of consensus before making the announcement, almost five days after the squad was picked.

However, those in the know say that the equation between the captain and the selectors is not bad and the March meeting was an aberration.

Additionally, the pressure on Kohli, especially with regards to an ICC tournament win, was growing. There was also the matter of five IPL titles for the Mumbai Indians under Rohit Sharma’s leadership since 2013 while the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s empty trophy cabinet added fuel to the discussions of Kohli’s captaincy in the shortest format.

A close aide of Kohli’s, however, did not give heed to such ideas: “He did not have to prove anything to anyone. He just wanted to have a little burden off him.”

Few hours before he issued a statement on Twitter, on Thursday, Kohli had told BCCI secretary Jay Shah that he wanted to focus on his batting. He remains as captain of RCB. He has also made it clear that he does not intend to give up the ODI captaincy as yet.

Following his talks with the Indian captain, the BCCI secretary called for a meeting with the selection committee, where Kohli revealed his decision. It is understood that the selection panel was not aware of the magnitude of the decision coming their way when this meeting was called for.

The meeting, which was held around 5 PM on Wednesday, lasted for about 20 minutes. In the meeting, which was attended by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, Shah, Chetan Sharma – chairman of the senior men’s selection committee, and the rest of the panel, Kohli made it clear that he wanted to give the decision makers enough time to decide on the future of the Indian T20I team – hence his decision to step down after the World Cup.

While Rohit Sharma is the obvious candidate to take over the leadership in the shortest format for India, the selectors have enough time to chart the future course with India’s next T20I assignment coming against New Zealand only in November-December.

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