India captain Virat Kohli on Thursday (26 November 2020) didn't hide his displeasure at the Rohit Sharma injury saga, stating that "confusion and lack of clarity" has led to the team management playing a "waiting game" on his availability which is not ideal.
Answering media queries online ahead of the ODI series against Australia starting on Friday, Kohli said Rohit was said to be unavailable before the selection committee meeting earlier this month.
"Before the selection meeting, we got a mail that he is unavailable, that he has picked up an injury during the IPL. It said that the pros and cons of the injury were explained to him and he understood and he was unavailable," Kohli said.
The Indian captain's view did open a Pandora's box about whether he and his white-ball deputy have been communicating on various sensitive issues pertaining to the team.
Rohit, who is nursing a left hamstring injury is doing is rehab at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and is still three weeks away from full match fitness but a 14-day hard quarantine (without training) would rule him out of the Test series, starting December 17.
He played in the IPL within days of being left out of the Australia tour before being subsequently added to the Test squad.
"After that (the selection meeting) he played in the IPL and we all thought he would be on that flight to Australia and we had no information on why he is not travelling with us. There has been no information, there has been lack of clarity," Kohli said.
"We have been playing the waiting game," he added.
Kohli said that Rohit's next assessment at the NCA will happen on December 11 and right now it's a waiting game for the team sitting in Australia.
"The only other information we got is that he is in NCA and he is being assessed and he will again be assessed on 11th December. It's not ideal at all. It's been very confusing and a lot of uncertainty and lack of clarity around the situation," the skipper's irritation was palpable.
In fact, Kohli just like it has been reported, said that now Rohit and pacer Ishant Sharma, who is recovering from a side strain, arriving in Australia is not certain given the strict 14-day quarantine enforcement here.
"Right now, there is so much uncertainty and whether they are going to make it and if they are going to make it at all or not."
Kohli said that just like Wriddhiman Saha, it would have been ideal for both Rohit and Ishant Sharma to do their rehab programme under national team trainer Nick Webb and physio Nitin Patel.
"Yeah, that would have definitely increased their chances of both of them playing Test matches," referring to senior keeper's injury management work with regards to his twin hamstring injury.
Kohli's comments on lack of clarity and communication, only a week after Rohit said that he is confident of playing the Test matches in Australia, raise a question or two about how the BCCI has handled the entire issue. The Board is yet to officially comment on the matter.
"Someone like Saha is doing his rehab and we are aware of his progress and he is on the right path to be available in time to play Test series...It would have given them (Rohit and Ishant) a chance to get themselves fit from the start of the Test series," Kohli said
"It definitely would have been very helpful if they would have been here to do the rehab just like Saha has been doing to get fit," skipper made it clear where he stood.
'New WTC points system confusing'
Kohli questioned the ICC for altering the points system of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC), saying the change is "confusing" and the governing body has a lot to explain.
India slipped to the second position in the standings of the ongoing World Test Championship (WTC) after the ICC last week decided to rank teams "in order of percentage of points earned" from the contested matches.
Australia (296 points from 3 series) toppled India (360 points from 4 series) in the standings after the revision with a percentage of 82.22 compared to the latter's 75 per cent.
A livid Kohli said the decision is "surprising" and "difficult" to comprehend.
"It is definitely surprising because we were told that points are a matter of contention for the top two teams qualifying in World Test championships and now suddenly it has become percentage out of nowhere, so it is confusing and difficult to understand why," Kohli said during a video conference ahead of the first ODI against Australia.
"... if these things were explained to us from day one then it would have been easier to understand the reason why such a change has happened.
"But it happened out of nowhere and I think further questions need to be asked to the ICC to understand why this has been done and what are the reasons behind it."
With the raging COVID-19 pandemic leading to the cancellation of several bilateral series, the ICC said "just under half of the World Test Championship matches have been played, with that estimated to rise to more than 85 per cent by the end of the competition window."
According to current regulations, incomplete matches are treated as draw but after due deliberation, the ICC Cricket Committee, headed by Anil Kumble, recommended that the final WTC standings should be determined on the basis of matches played, which was approved by the Board.
"Both the Cricket Committee and Chief Executives Committee supported the approach of ranking teams based on completed matches and points earned as this reflects their performance and doesn't disadvantage teams that have been unable to compete all of their matches through no fault of their own," ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney had said.
With India scheduled to play four Tests in Australia and then host England for five Tests, the results of the two series will decide the finalists of the inaugural WTC.
The final is scheduled at Lord's in England in June 2021.
'Shami and Bumrah will be rotated'
It is expected that Shami and Bumrah, in the absence of an injured Ishant Sharma, will have to the carry the bulk of the burden during the Test series and they will be rotated during the ODIs and T20 Internationals starting from Friday.
"It's a no-brainer. They have gone through a full IPL. It will be important to monitor their workload," Kohli said on the eve of the first ODI.
"You want to see how people react to different situations. There is a fine balance that you need to maintain, something we have managed to do for the last few years," Kohli said.
"That is why our bowlers have been fit and available for the important matches most of the times for us. It is an important factor for me as a captain. It is going to be crucial."
Kohli, who has been hugely successful in Australia, agreed that while it can be intimidating to play cricket over here, a good performance does get the respect it deserves. "It can be a very intimidating experience if you are not ready mentally and (not have the) skills. In every sport they are very tough, the crowd can be tough on travelling players and rightly so.
"But if you perform well, you get a lot of respect. As a sportsman I am a big fan of it. The stadiums are amazing, always a nice tour full of challenges."
Kohli said that youngsters will be tried out during these two series. "Yes, we have definitely discussed those things. There are a lot of young guys in the squad.
"It is a great opportunity for them to realise something new about their game. It's a very important series for them. Definitely looking forward to seeing how they shape up."
For Kohli, having been there and done that for the country, there is nothing to prove to anyone. "I don't come to any place to prove anything to anyone anymore. Growth is the only focus, on the field or off the field. That would be a template for me going forward," he said.
Kohli, who will be on paternity leave after the first Test, said that he had communicated his decision to the selection committee in advance that he wanted to be with wife Anushka for the birth of their first child.
"The decision was made before the selection meeting that I will be flying back before the first Test. It was purely based on the fact that there was a quarantine period both ways.
"I wanted to be back in time to be with my wife for the birth of our first child. It is very, very special and a beautiful moment in our lives and that was the reason for my decision that was communicated to the selectors," he said.