Both ESPNcricinfo experts agree that having been “consumed” for seven years leading India and also being their best batter for several years across all formats, Kohli is still coming to terms with transitioning into the background as one of the players.
Vettori and Shastri were reacting to Kohli’s statement about him intending to talk to the Indian team management, led by head coach Rahul Dravid, about taking a break in the near future and why he felt that was a “healthy” option. Kohli made those remarks in his chat with Star Sports, which was aired on Thursday.
In the chat, Kohli also spoke to former India team-mate Harbhajan Singh. Kohli said he was going through one of the “happy” phases of his career and was totally unperturbed by his batting struggles, which has seen him clock three golden ducks this IPL and not score a century since November 2019. Kohli stressed there was nothing wrong with his batting, but he was keen to take a break to refresh himself.
Vettori, who worked with Kohli for several years while serving as head coach at Royal Challengers Bangalore, said the senior Indian batter might be experiencing withdrawal symptoms from captaincy.
“I don’t associate his lack of form with a mental break,” Vettori said on the T20 Time Out on Thursday. “He is working hard and he knows exactly what he needs to do with his game. We underestimate how consuming captaincy is and for a player who was seven years in the job, in all three formats, who meant so much to the team from a batting perspective, from an emotional perspective, from the leadership perspective and the captaincy. That’s overwhelming.”
Vettori, himself a former international captain for New Zealand, admitted he “hated” being at the helm as it was a 24×7 job.
“You don’t realise how consuming it is when you are in it and as soon as you are out of it, it almost estranges you completely,” Vettori said. “You are gone from talking to Ravi 24×7 to potentially no one consulting for a lot of things. So you actually get left in the background a little bit because the team moves on and the captain-coach relationship starts again with other people. So it’s a funny time.
“A break could be the best thing, who knows, but Virat knows himself so well that he’ll understand exactly what he requires and what he needs to get himself back to his best.”
“The fact that suddenly there is no one asking him for a press conference, who should play, who should not play, this time is the team meeting, you got to be there. You suddenly go to the other end of the spectrum, so it is very difficult to handle that for any human being, leave alone Virat Kohli.
“So, it’s not a question of him batting badly. He must be ticking all the boxes in the nets, striking it beautifully. (But) mental fatigue creeps in, that’s the time you need a little bit of a break to just rejuvenate, to recharge the batteries and come back refreshed. It’s not a break because of form like Danny mentioned. It’s nothing to do with it. It’s just that little bit of overload that he’s had over the last few years – for that reason give him a break.”
Shastri reckoned it would not surprise him if the Indian selectors were to rest senior players like Kohli, Indian captain Rohit Sharma and few other all-format players for the five-match T20I series at home against South Africa in June, only to have them fresh for the England tour comprising a one-off Test and a six-match white ball series.
Shastri agreed that players like Kohli would do well and need such short breaks more frequently to keep “optimum form.”
“Absolutely no question about it,” Shastri said when asked if managing the workloads of key senior players was necessary. “Very difficult for a player to maintain optimum form, hunger, that passion if you are going to play all three formats constantly. And he is the one player amongst all Indian players who has done exactly that.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
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