Virat Kohli took over the Test captaincy on a full time basis after MS Dhoni suddenly retired from the format during the Australia tour in December 2014. However, it was only in January 2017 that he was appointed at the helm in all the formats when Dhoni decided to continue to play as a wicketkeeper-batsman since then. India didn’t struggle much during this ‘change in captaincy’ period as Kohli took over well and most importantly led from the front too.
He also took India to the number 1 position in the Test Rankings and it is an incredible achievement as they were at number six or seven when Dhoni stepped down. Rather the team has done well across all the formats consistently under Kohli. But there have been instances when his team selections, especially in Tests, have led to controversies and many felt the team had to bear consequences of his decisions.
Here we bring you five team selections from Virat Kohli which created controversy:
1. Dropping Ajinkya Rahane for 2 Tests against South Africa
India’s tour of South Africa in January 2018 was the start of Virat Kohli and Co’s stern 18 months or so as they were set to be on the road. India were coming off a dominant home season during which the vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane had struggled. At the same time, there were talks of horses for courses selection policy being adopted by the duo of Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri.
However, very few thought that Rahane would be left out of the team given his previous record while playing away from home. But come the first Test at the Newlands, Virat Kohli and the team management decided to prefer Rohit Sharma over the vice-captain of the team which shocked many.
Rahane was kept out of the team for the first two Tests of the three-match and his replacement, Rohit, who used to bat at five then, returned with the scores of 11, 10, 10 & 47. India went on to lose both the matches and Rahane’s exclusion created a lot of furore back home and the skipper was even questioned about the same in the media.
For the dead rubber, Rahane returned as expected replacing Rohit Sharma and in the toughest of conditions at the Wanderers, the former scored a valiant 47 showing his worth in the second innings. India also went on to win the Test match by 63 runs.
2. Picking Karn Sharma for the Adelaide Test in 2014
Even before taking over the Test captaincy on a full-time basis, Virat Kohli had to lead India in the first Test of the 2014-15 tour of Australia. MS Dhoni was rested from the series opener after he had injured his right thumb. And in his maiden Test as the skipper, Kohli surprised everyone by handing Karn Sharma his Test debut ahead of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
He probably wanted to surprise Australia with the selection of the wrist spinner. But the move didn’t work at all as Australia went on to plunder 517 runs for the loss of seven wickets in just 120 overs. Karn was taken apart for 143 runs in 33 overs. He picked a couple of wickets of David Warner and Michael Clarke but not before they scored 145 and 128 runs respectively.
India’s bowling troubles continued in the second innings as well with the hosts scoring 290 runs in just 69 overs. The debutant was targeted yet again. Karn Sharma conceded 95 runs in his 16 overs and once again picked two wickets which didn’t matter much in the context of the game. India lost the match by 48 runs despite Virat Kohli himself scoring twin centuries but his captaincy decisions left a lot to be desired. Moreover, Karn Sharma didn’t play for India again.
3. Dropping Cheteshwar Pujara for Edgbaston Test in 2018
Cheteshwar Pujara’s slow batting was talked about a lot then and he was also coming off a poor South Africa tour after scoring only 100 runs in six outings at a strike-rate of 29.24. It was lowest among top 20 batsmen in the series on the tour. But does the SR matter in Tests? Well, it mattered for India at the start of the England series.
To accommodate KL Rahul who was in great form at that time in the limited-overs format, Virat Kohli and the management left ‘India’s Wall’ out of the team and faced the repercussions of the same very soon. India’s batting seemed extremely weak in Pujara’s absence and Rahul, batting at three, mustered only 4 and 13 runs in the two innings.
They were bundled out for 162 chasing 194 runs to win and the target might have been achieved had a batsman like Pujara held the forte at one end. As expected, the Saurashtra batsman returned for the rest of the series but his confidence had taken a hit and it was visible during the course of the next four Tests. But it was Pujara who stood up in the toughest of times in Australia and helped India script their first ever Test series win down under later.
4. Dropping Ambati Rayudu from World Cup 2019 squad
Ambati Rayudu has to be one of the unluckiest players in the Indian cricket. After an impeccable show in the IPL 2018, he made a stunning comeback to the national team in the ODIs. The team was struggling to find a solid number four ahead of the World Cup, and he seemed to have solved the problem on a long term basis then.
Rather during the home season, Virat Kohli himself confirmed in a press conference that Rayudu has sealed his position at number four. But come the 2019, the Hyderabad batsman’s form deserted a bit and it coincided with Vijay Shankar’s emergence as an all-rounder. Both of them played together in Australia and New Zealand ODIs too.
And only because, Shankar was an all-rounder (3D player according to MSK Prasad), he was preferred which broke Rayudu’s heart. He also took a dig at the selectors with his 3D tweet after the World Cup squad was announced. Rather despite being named in the list of backup players, Rayudu wasn’t called into the team once after the likes of Shankar and Dhawan were injured midway during the World Cup.
Rishabh Pant and Mayank Agarwal travelled to England as replacement. And as far as the debated number four position is concerned, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Pant and Shankar ended up playing at the position in the mega event.
5. Excluding Rohit Sharma from the XI in West Indies Tests
This was India’s first tour after the heartbreaking loss in the World Cup semi-final. Moroever, the rumoured rift between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma was at its peak during this period with even the former facing questions in the media regarding the same. As expected India dominated in the T20I and ODI series not losing even a single game and when it came to the Tests, the selection conundrum began.
Rohit Sharma was left out and Hanuma Vihari was preferred to bat at six. Though the latter played extremely well and also slammed his first Test century on the tour, many felt Kohli delberately left out Rohit from the team.
The talks of him opening the innings in the whites started from here on and many eyebrows were raised over KL Rahul retaining his place despite not performing well in the Tests. Eventually, in the home season which followed, Rohit opened the innings in Tests against South Africa and the rest is history.
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