Paternity Over Fraternity
Virat Kohli’s decision to return to India on paternity leave at a time when the team needs him most during the Test series in Australia, has come in for intense scrutiny.
As the strong Aussies host the Ajinkya Rahane-led side in the second Test at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) from Saturday, there are sharp comments. Sunil Gavaskar, India’s greatest opening Test batsmen of all times and the former India captain has taken more than a pot-shot at Kohli for returning home on paternity leave.
Writing a column for a well-known sports magazine, Gavaskar pointed out how there are different yardsticks for different players of Team India. It is well known that T Natarajan, the sensational left-arm fast bowler who created waves during the IPL in UAE and also the T20 and ODI series with his yorkers has still not seen his newborn child, born in October.
Mind you, Natarajan is now just a nets bowler but has not been spared by the Indian cricket board (BCCI). It is also on this premise, Gavaskar has slammed Kohli for getting special treatment.
To be sure, this is not the first time Gavaskar has criticized Kohli. The last time when Kohli and Anushka Sharma broke the big news on social media, they were expecting a third member in their family, Gavaskar made a very spicy comment. He had talked of what Kohli had been doing during the lockdown. His comments drew huge flak from fans of Bollywood celebrity Anushka.
There is a difference between what Gavaskar said then and now. The Indian team was battered in the first Test in Adelaide and call of duty demanded Kohli stayed back with the team. However, as Kohli had already applied for paternity leave in October, before the team was selected for the tour to Australia, the “yes men” in the BCCI granted him leave.
It is well known, leave of any nature in any professional organisation is subject to approval and can be cancelled at the last minute. What is surprising is that not only has the BCCI granted him leave, they are not even talking about a possible revision.
The concern of the BCCI is IPL alone, and the latest decision to include 10 teams from 2022 shows they do not care for what happens in national interest – playing for India.
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Gavaskar is not alone to question Kohli. There are a few more like former left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi and AN Sharma, coach of Virender Sehwag, who have also expressed surprise at Kohli neglecting national duty.
Modern day sport is all about being professional. Kohli is not an amateur cricketer. When he leads IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore, he is a pro who is paid big bucks and makes billions more through endorsements. When Kohli plays for India, he is again a professional who gets paid on an annual contract basis.
It is not as if deducting Kohli’s match fees for the three Test matches which he will be missing will suffice. A leader like Kohli, already under flak for being captain in all three formats, should not have proceeded on leave.
The job of the Indian cricket captain is a very prestigious one. The world wishes he and Anushka are blessed with a healthy baby but as a professional he has got his priority wrong this time. Those who advocate a man being by the side of his wife during delivery are all praise for Kohli’s decision.
But above all this comes the pride and feeling of leading Team India. It is very much akin to a fauji doing national duty on the battle front where he has to forget personal life. Life and death, near and dear ones being ill, for the soldiers and officers of Indian Armed Forces, serving the nation comes first.
That is why what Gavaskar is saying has huge traction. Just imagine, Kings XI Punjab player Mandeep Singh lost his father during the IPL in October. He stayed back, wiped, his own tears, and continued to play. This was just club cricket, but Mandeep showed that being a professional meant his loyalty was first towards work.
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There are many more instances as well. In fact, a few years ago, even during a Ranji Trophy game, Wasim Jaffer, former India Test captain, stayed back and played despite being informed that he had lost his mother. Jaffer won the match for Mumbai then and the bonus points, making him a big hero.
In women’s hockey, in January 2019, Lalremsiami from Mizoram played on the FIH series semi-finals after her father’s death. She was then given the option by the team management to fly back home from Hiroshima but chose to stay back.
The job of any athlete representing the country is a very prestigious one. Indian athletes are known to play with passion and from their hearts. The josh and dil se attitude quite often makes the difference in a team sport.
This is the time Team India needs Captain Virat Kohli in Australia. His batting form is good and he is now accepted as a strong leader. In the absence of a few key players like Rohit Sharma, Mohd Shami and Ishant Sharma, Kohli should have led like a true General from the front.
Should India lose the series badly, brickbats will be hurled at stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane and other players. Had Kohli changed his mind and played on, he could have become a bigger hero.
Sadly, at this point of time in Indian cricket administration, such is the power equation, Kohli is treated as someone who can do no wrong. If Kohli is to be blamed by so many people, then the incompetent BCCI is also to be blamed. BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has led Team India and knows what it is to play with josh.
He is the same man who dared to take off his shirt in the Lord’s balcony. How come Ganguly did not speak to Kohli and guide him on National Interest, playing for the country. If the Commander is making a wrong move, should not the General have stepped in?
The coming few weeks will see more news on Kohli returning home prematurely. One wonders how he can go to sleep at night without any guilt.