Johannesburg — Of course Virat Kohli rubs people up the wrong way. He can be a brat, appears arrogant and he does chirp too much. His sledging is also bad. As in Tim Paine bad. Too many words, not enough wit.
So he set himself up as this pseudo-villain. And South Africans will for years have a meme. However because he’s so passionate and cares so much, it made us viewers care too. Kohli’s been the major reason for Test cricket’s primacy in the last decade.
The International Cricket Council does a really good job of saying they care about the value of the Test format and then go and insert a limited overs tournament onto the international calendar for every year from now until 2031 — reviving the Champions Trophy in the process.
The English and the Australians only care about the Ashes — how lame was that series by the way? Even in India, with the expansion of the IPL, the importance of Test cricket would appear to be waning.
Hello ... Hi ... Yes ... Hello, hi, ja, the machine has swallowed my parking ticket ... Hello? pic.twitter.com/luHD7TPhzk— Morgan Bolton (@FreemanZAR) January 14, 2022
But Kohli cared and because he did, Test cricket was given the platform the ICC wouldn’t give it. We should all be grateful.
Although he wasn’t in Australia for the majority of India’s series triumph there last year, his presence was felt as India surged back from 0-1 down (and getting bowled out for 36), to win that series.
It was his stirring speech as the players came onto the field on that final afternoon at Lord’s that whipped India into a frenzy and saw them achieve that magnificent triumph against the English.
All that was left for Kohli was winning in South Africa. He was desperate to do so. It would have put him in a class of his own in Indian cricket. Sadly for him that wasn’t to be the case.
South Africans quite rightfully revelled in that outcome. The comeback, led by a one of the best Test knocks by any Proteas batter at the Wanderers, and with youngsters like Keegan Petersen and Marco Jansen producing crucial performances, seeing the best of Kagiso Rabada again and the courageous efforts of Lungi Ngidi, who hadn’t played in six months, provided a lift that South African cricket desperately needed.
And it made it sweeter that Kohli was the opposition captain who was vanquished. But it was sweeter because we knew how much a Test series win here meant to him and from a broader perspective how much winning Test matches — especially outside of India — meant to him.
So there should be legitimate concerns about Test cricket’s future — and how India in particular will view the primacy of the format — now that Kohli has resigned as that team’s Test captain.
Whoever that team’s next skipper is, he won’t have the standing Kohli has in India and on the international stage. Kohli was for a very long time the best player in the world. He may return to that status now that the captaincy isn’t something he needs to bother with. But it was in his position as India’s captain that he had a huge amount of influence on the sport.
That will be less so now. It’s highly unlikely that India’s next Test captain will have the same kind of sway, in a cricket world where international limited overs tournaments dominate the schedule and where the IPL now has two more teams, with further expansion a distinct possibility.
So enjoy the memes, continue to enjoy the fact that this relatively inexperienced Proteas team beat this excellent Indian side, that was so passionately led by a captain, who truly valued Test cricket — much more than the sport’s administrators.