Back as captain, he says Ajinkya Rahane fulfilled the leadership responsibility with flying colours in Australia
Of all the series in all the times, the one that Virat Kohli chose to miss turned out to be an epic to end all the epics. In his absence, losing a player by the day, India managed to come back from 1-0 and 36 all out to win the series in and against Australia, but in a different country, in a different setting, Kohli was experiencing something that will remain the moment of his life. Those looking on from outside must have wondered if he did experience some fear of missing out, but to Kohli there was no question he was going to miss the birth of his first child even if it meant watching on phone as Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur put together that stand moments before the doctor called Kohli and wife Anushka Sharma in.
“I don’t think the two can be compared,” Kohli said when asked what he went through when away from India’s best series but also experiencing something incredible in his own life. “To me, becoming a father has been, and will remain, the greatest moment in my life, in both our lives. That is something that has to be experienced to understand what I am saying.
“Secondly the connection with the team doesn’t go away in any situation, especially when you have given everything for the team, especially the Test side, for the last six years, on a daily side. Being motivated to take Test cricket on top, take Indian cricket on top. The whole group has put in so much effort. You are connected invariably. And I was watching all the games. I clearly remember when Shardul and Washington were going through that partnership, I was watching it on the phone just before we had to go in when the doctor called us. That’s how connected you are to the team. That’s how much you are looking forward to guys doing well.
“I was so happy and proud to see the whole team come back in the series like we did. And everyone deserves all the credit for what they did in Australia. I wouldn’t even say what ‘happened’, because it was purely out of determination, grit and belief that they achieved what they ended up achieving. That is something that is going to remain in the hearts and minds of Indian cricket fans forever. Whether I was a part of it or not, to me that doesn’t matter as much as what it matters to the Indian cricket team and the whole country. I was very proud and very happy for all the boys but I came back for a moment that is, and will be, the most special in our lives forever.”
In Kohli’s absence, Ajinkya Rahane led India to the scarcely believable comeback, which led to debates if Rahane was indeed better off being the full-time captain. Former captain Bishan Bedi was the leading voice asking for the change, but Rahane was quick to say he had no such ambition. Now back as captain for the home series, Kohli was ready to be in the driving seat with his trusted navigator by his side.
“Between me and Jinks, we have always enjoyed batting with each other. It’s quite evident on the field that we enjoy each other’s company. It is just mutual respect and the bonding, more than just on the cricket field.”
Virat Kohli on his relationship with Ajinkya Rahane
“Things in the change room are different to what is seen from the outside,” Kohli said. “That fact Jinks [Rahane] mentioned what he mentioned is not just Jinks and me, but between the whole team. The camaraderie of the whole team is based on trust and knowing all of us are working towards only one goal, and that is to see India win.
“I would like to mention, he fulfilled his responsibility in Australia with flying colours, it was amazing to see him lead the team towards victory, which has always been our goal. Between me and Jinks, we have always enjoyed batting with each other. It’s quite evident on the field that we enjoy each other’s company. It is just mutual respect and the bonding, more than just on the cricket field. We do chat off the field as well. We stay in touch. And it’s just based on trust. Hence Jinks said what he said.
“Between me and him, on the field he has always been someone who has always had the capability and the space to come in and give inputs at different stages of the game, and we do have discussions on the field towards where the game is heading. I go and discuss a lot of things with him to get more clarity and perspective other than me focusing on team plans. That’s how we work together. That’s a massive, massive reason for the success of the Indian team in the Test format. That partnership, that camaraderie will be the same as it has been. The mindset for me, him and everyone remains to take Indian cricket forward.”
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo