de Villiers feels playing without pressures of captaincy will free up Kohli going forward
Virat Kohli’s stint as the captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore, spanning 11 seasons came to an end on Monday with his team bowing out of IPL 2021 in the eliminator against Kolkata Knight Riders. Earlier, he also announced he will step down as India’s T20I captain after the conclusion of the upcoming World Cup. In a chat on the franchise’s official YouTube channel, Kohli explained the reasons behind his decision. As someone who had a lot of criticism come his way after he retired from international cricket, AB de Villiers defended his Royal Challengers team-mate, explaining why retiring earlier than expected is not a “selfish” decision.
de Villiers on Kohli’s legacy as Royal Challengers’ captain:
I think Virat’s had an unbelievable run as captain. It’s been a privilege to play under him. I’ve been a fan of him leading over the last few years because of all the pressure he has taken on board over the years with the Indian team plus the IPL. I feel this could be an environment where he could come out and have a bit of fun and sort of step away from Indian cricket for a while, have a bit of fun in the T20s at the IPL with a lot of international friends around and then go back into the high-pressure environment of captaining India in the formats. That’s been the chat for the last couple of years. It’s got nothing to do with his ability as captain. We all know that he’s been unbelievable for us. Always lead from the front for RCB. Always made the best possible decisions for the team. He’s had a fantastic run. I’m sad to see him go as captain. But hopefully we’ll have a few more years together in the team and win some trophies for the boys.
Kohli on whether the pandemic had an impact on the decision:
I had spoken to AB [about it] in 2019. It’s not new, with the IPL I was always in a space where I wanted to create some kind of peaceful environment for me through the calendar year. We had these discussions and I thought ‘okay fine, we’ll give it one more year’. We had a restructuring of the management and things were much better in 2020. So I felt a little more relaxed at that stage. But the pandemic obviously has its own challenges, not having the ability to go home for a couple of days and come back. It weighs on you as an individual but that has not been a deciding factor for me. My point of view was clear regardless of whether Covid was there or not there I had to at some stage manage my workload. It wouldn’t have been possible to keep going on through the year captaining everything – three formats and the IPL. As a batsman you have to make sure you’re contributing in the best way possible for your team as well. So I didn’t want to compromise on the enjoyment of the game also.
de Villiers defends Kohli’s decision:
I’ve been in the same boat before and I can relate to what he [Kohli] is feeling and what he’s been through. So there’s a mis-perception in my opinion when it comes to the public when they see people stepping down out of certain roles to let a bit of that workload go. Where they see it as being selfish, it is exactly the opposite. It is not being selfish. Because of him doing that [stepping down from captaincy] he can be a better version of himself. There can be a captain coming in with that same kind of energy that he’s had for the last 7-8 years. I was in the same position, took quite a lot of criticism for letting some things go, where I felt I was actually doing the right thing for the team and not being selfish in the same process. Sometimes it can be a bit misleading and people see it as ‘oh, he is now thinking about himself, he is protecting himself’. It is exactly the opposite actually.
Kohli: There’s one thing saying that when you’re offered captaincy you don’t want to take it because you want to look after your game. There’s another thing saying that you’ve actually done it, proven yourself for 7-8 years and now it makes complete sense [to step down]. As I said, I didn’t want to be operating at 80% and be miserable in a team environment where I can’t contribute my whole energy to the group very organically and honestly, and that’s who I’ve always been. I didn’t want to have a structure around me where I felt like I’m not able to be myself on the field because my job is firstly as a player to make sure I’m in the best frame of mind possible to be able to contribute to the team. Like AB said, it’s not a selfish thing to do. Because what you actually want to do is to provide your best self out there for the team and potentially have another guy who has fresh energy, fresh set of ideas to carry that culture forward and you’ll still continue to be the leader within the group like motivating the youngsters, doing the right thing for the team. What is perceived on the outside and what the reality is two different things. Beyond a point you don’t even want to think about what people are making out of your decisions because they have no idea what you’re experiencing.
de Villiers: There is such a thing as going on for too long. That, in my opinion, is selfish. People that want to hold on to power for longer than they know in their hearts they know they shouldn’t. There is such a thing and people must remember that as Virat got the decision right, yes or no, that’s up to you to decide. In his heart, it feels 100% pure and he can be the best version of himself moving forward. In my opinion that’s the right decision.