Virat Kohli denies wanting to pull out of ODI series as captaincy row grips India

File photo: Virat Kohli was replaced as India’s ODI captain last week

Indian cricketer and Test captain Virat Kohli on Wednesday rejected reports that he had asked to sit out the upcoming one-day international (ODI) series in South Africa, and said that he was available to play.

Kohli added that he was informed of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) decision to remove him from captaincy just hours before it was announced.

“I was contacted one-and-a-half hours before the selection meeting on the 8 (December) for the Test series,” Kohli said at a press conference. “There was no prior communication to me at all since I announced the T20I captaincy decision [to resign as T20 captain] until the 8th of December, where I got a call before the selection meeting.”

“…before ending the call, I was told the five selectors have decided I will not be the ODI captain, to which I replied, ‘okay, fine’, and in the selection call afterwards, we chatted about it briefly and that’s what happened. There was no communication prior to that at all,” Kohli told reporters a day before the Indian team is set to leave for South Africa.

India will play against South Africa in three Test matches, starting 26 December, and then go on to play three ODIs between 19 and 23 January.

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A captaincy tussle has gripped the Indian cricket team as two key players — Kohli and Rohit Sharma — are not in the team for the upcoming series, leaving the skipper’s spot empty.

Sharma replaced Kohli as captain for ODI matches on 8 December but suffered a hamstring injury, which will keep him out of the game for at least a month. Sharma will be fit to play by the time of the first ODI match, reports suggest.

Wishing him a speedy recovery, Kohli said his successor was a “very able captain and very tactically sound”.

Even though Kohli is among the most notable captains of Indian cricket team’s history — with 74.64 per cent win rate as captain, third most successful in Test matches and India’s most successful Test captain who raised the team to the top rank globally, up from the seventh spot — the team is yet to win an ICC trophy under his leadership.

He acknowledged that this may have been a reason for the national cricket board’s decision tos ack him as captain.

“Obviously, we have not won ICC tournaments. I can understand the reasons. There was no debate as to whether the decision was right or wrong. Whatever decision the BCCI made was taken from a logical point of view, which is totally understandable,” Kohli said.

The furore over who will lead the team into this series also comes at a time when cricket fans and commentators have speculated that there has been a rift between Kohli and Sharma for a few years now.

However, Kohli dismissed the rumours. “There is no problem between me and Rohit Sharma. I have been clarifying for the past two years and I am tired. None of my actions or decisions will be to take the team down,” he said.

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The Indian cricket team has witnessed major changes in the last few months as Kohli resigned as the Twenty20 league captain in September this year, citing work pressure. He had expressed his desire to continue as ODI and Test captains at that time.

Additionally, Indian team’s head coach Ravi Shastri was replaced by former captain Rahul Dravid.

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