Why Virat Kohli needs a break from cricket
Virat Kohli is a busy man. Too busy for his own good.
According to a report in The Indian Express, Kohli has traversed close to 90,000 kms over the last one year, right from India’s tour to the Caribbean to the ongoing Sri Lanka series. The entire circumference of the earth is less than half of that figure.
In the last one year, he has missed only one of India’s 43 matches in all formats. An ugly blow to his shoulder knocked him out of the Dharamsala Test against Australia, but he was up in no time, doing ‘clean snatches’ in the gym, and within two weeks, was leading the Royal Challengers Bangalore through a torrid IPL season.
Then the Champions Trophy followed, and the West Indies series, and now the Sri Lanka tour. The train continues to motor along, but did the shoulder even heal properly?
Around the same time, nine years ago, MS Dhoni had opted out of a Test series against Sri Lanka, requesting the board for a short break. Before that, Dhoni had played non-stop cricket for a whole year: first, an 80-day tour of the UK, followed by the inaugural World T20 in South Africa, an ODI series against Australia and Pakistan, a three-month long tour to Australia, a Test series against South Africa and finally, the IPL. Phew!
The word ‘season’, with respect to a cricket calendar, can’t be used in the same context anymore. There seems to be no ‘off-season’ for the cricketers, who hardly have time to catch a breath, what with commercial engagements eating away most of their time away from the game.
Since the 2011 World Cup, Kohli has played 240 international games, the second most by any player in world cricket, behind only Angelo Mathews. His tremendous fitness standards are well-documented, but should they be stretched when there is no apparent need to do so?
What if India’s most prolific run-machine suddenly breaks down?
Around a month from now, the Indian Team will reboot their home season, a throwback to the one they underwent last year. A hectic string of 23 matches (3 Tests, 11 ODIs and 9 T20Is), starting with an ODI series against Australia, immediately beckons them, a mere 10 days after the Sri Lanka tour wraps up. In January, the team will head to South Africa.
How can Kohli not afford to play these high-intensity series? But, why does he need to bake in the heat of Dambulla and Kandy when he can rejuvenate at home for sterner tests ahead.
In February 2016, after getting a three-week breather post the Australia tour, Kohli had stated that it was a ‘good break after a long time’.
‘If I play five games and if I don't make runs then my workload will not be that much compared to someone else,’ he had said.
Well rested after the gap, Kohli catapulted to a different level in his career, hammering runs away during an insane purple patch throughout 2016. He conjured some of his finest gems in the World T20, averaging 136.50 in the tournament, and followed it up with a staggering 973 runs in IPL 2016, a record perhaps he can only break.
Over a year later, the 28-year-old is still plundering attacks, but at the breakneck speed that he is heading forward, coupled with the baggage of triple captaincy that he is bearing, it begs the question whether there is a system behind his continued ascent.
Perhaps the time is now, against the Lankans, to tap the adroitness of other potential skippers, and give Kohli some well-deserved time to unwind. It could start with reigning IPL champions Mumbai Indians' man-in-charge, Rohit Sharma.
Ajinkya Rahane has been the designated stand-in forever, but given that he has not exactly been a regular in the ODI side, a promotion to captaincy would be mixed signals of sorts.
Rohit has been a rock at the top, fluently garnering runs across countries, and has had enough time to recuperate from his hamstring issues in the last few months. He was promoted to vice-captaincy in the Champions Trophy, and it will be harmless to test him out against a side that are yet to qualify for the World Cup two years from now.
He also has a small matter of three IPLs and one Champions League T20 title under his belt.
"That's thinking too far ahead. I don't think too far ahead. When the opportunity comes, it comes. I will grab it with both hands," Rohit had said after the IPL, when asked about captaining India.
In his prime, at the age of 28, Kohli still has a plethora of records yet to smash. There’s still ample time, better opponents to fight, arduous conditions to taste and higher glories to achieve.
A small catnap, however, won’t harm anyone, right?