The malaise underlying India’s rout against underdogs New Zealand runs deeper than is presumed. With the team and the management in the pillory over some questionable decisions, which do not behove a side that has pretensions about being the world’s best, reports of discontent and rift have started coming out of the woodwork. Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, quoting a Team India player, has reported that there exist two power centres in the squad - one of which is known for its proximity to Virat Kohli and the other to Rohit Sharma. The report also suggests that the Kohli-Shastri axis is dominant and often takes unilateral decisions, riding roughshod over others. One such decision was the selection of Vijay Shankar over Ambati Rayudu as the designated No.4 in the World Cup squad.
According to the report, Shastri and Kohli are able to get away with their whimsical decisions as they enjoy the backing of Vinod Rai, the chief of the Supreme Court-backed Committee of Administrators. Though the ‘rift’ is yet to manifest itself in the form of a showdown between the two camps, both sides are aware that there are certain ‘darlings’ who will find a place in the squad come what may.
The report quotes a ‘player’ within the team as saying that KL Rahul, despite his poor performances, is always sure of a spot either as an opener or as the No 4. In the worst scenario, he is kept in the 15-member squad. Likewise, Yuzvendra Chahal, by virtue of being part of the Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bengaluru side, is preferred over Kuldeep Yadav, when the situation warrants that either of the two wrist spinners be dropped, the media report said. Ravi Shastri was appointed head coach after Anil Kumble was forced to step down after India’s loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final in 2017. Kumble in a social media post had revealed that his exit was due to poor relations with Kohli, who had backed Shastri for a second stint.