SCENE ONE: Quinton de Kock plays for South Africa in the Hamilton Test against Black Caps when injury is fresh and hurting, but decides to skip Indian Premier League to be fully fit for his future national assignment. De Kock is ready to face the risk as his national side eyes a 2-0 series win over the hosts.
SCENE TWO: A study in contrast. From Hamilton to Dharamsala and the plot changes completely. India in a must-win situation to pocket the series, must force a draw to save the series. The big question for the hosts on the eve of the match. Virat Kohli? Or, Virat Kohli not? The Indian captain has batted with his sore shoulder three days back at Ranchi. Will he brave the injury yet again for the cause of Team India, the best in the world. Or, won’t he? For, the commitment to his IPL franchisee is no less important, if not more. Not just for the player, but the Board of Control of Cricket in India as well.
This has given room for raising a controversy. Gujarat Lions coach and former Australian Brad Hodge did not take long to spark one.
According to various media reports, Hodge has suggested that Kohli, who missed the fourth Test in Dharamsala due to an injury, could be saving himself for the IPL starting next month. Hodge said it would be “pretty dirty” of Kohli if he turns out for the IPL opening match as Royal Challengers Bangalore captain against David Warner’s Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 5.
“You’d hope as a sportsman that he’s seriously injured. I’m hopeful, as a Gujarat Lions coach, that when we play RCB in a couple of weeks, that he’s not playing,” Hodge was quoted by ‘Daily Telegraph’ as having told Fox Sports News’ Gameday Live.
“Because if you miss one game of Test match cricket and you’re fronting up the next week for RCB versus whoever, Bangalore, at Chinnaswamy Stadium – you’d be pretty dirty if you did not front up to a Test match and try and win a valuable series against Australia – which has been pretty spiteful as well,” said Hodge who played five Tests and 25 ODIs between 2005 and 2008. “You would think that your captain would get out there and get among the fight and get in there.”
Kohli pulled out of the series-deciding fourth Test against Australia as he was not ‘100 per cent fit’ after injuring his shoulder during the third match in Ranchi. Hodge hoped the Indian skipper would not turn out to be like the many cricketers who have “limped” into the lucrative IPL.
“It’s happened before. Not just Virat but there’s many players that have come up to IPL time and again. Look, we know it’s a cash rich tournament, there’s some money up for grabs. He (Kohli) gets paid a lot of money anyway, so it does not matter, but there are certain players that will limp in to IPL to make sure they get there and perform well, because it is an important tournament for everyone around the world.”
Meanwhile, former Test players Brendon Julian and Brad Haddin have also questioned Kohli carrying drinks at breaks on Day One of the fourth Test. “The one sight out there that was quite puzzling was Kohli out there running some drinks. This is the captain that said, ‘I can’t actually play because I have a shoulder injury’ out there running the drinks,” Julian said.
“I don’t get that. I don’t get that. I like Kohli. I think he’s a very good captain and he’s great for Indian cricket, but you don’t need to be doing that. You’re out injured. What is the point?”
Haddin said Kohli risked derailing the captaincy of his stand-in, Ajinkya Rahane.
“I also think he’s good for the game and he’s a world class batter, but what about Rahane,” said Haddin. “He (Rahane) was out their captaining the team and you don’t want him running on because you know how big a personality he is in the change-room.“It’s his time to captain and what if he had different views on what Kohli has. Talk to him by all means in the change-room, but you’re injured. Sit down and get some ice on your shoulder.”