The Indian captain, never at a loss for words, was dismissive of the criticism by his former Delhi and India colleague.
The verbal joust between Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli over the latter’s failure to win the title for his franchise so far provided a rather dramatic backdrop to the start of this year’s IPL.
Royal Challengers Bangalore, among the most high profile teams, have not been able to win the title in 11 previous editions of the League, prompting Gambhir to say that Kohli was ‘lucky’ to still be captaining his franchise.
The Indian captain, never at a loss for words, was dismissive of the criticism by his former Delhi and India colleague. Kohli retorted he was doing his best and didn’t care how people from the outside judged him.
Relations between Gambhir and Kohli have been frosty for a while now and this unexpected exchange between two India stalwarts was an eye-opener why dressing room dynamics should not be assessed on superfluous bonhomie.
Keeping this ‘controversy’ aside, however, in the broader sweep of things, it is interesting to understand what makes for success in T20 cricket.
That the shortest format can be extremely topsy-turvy is borne out by the records. For instance, the T20 World Championships has been played six times since 2007 (when India won), and the only team to have won it twice is West Indies!
Till they beat fancied England in the Test series recently and drew the ODI rubber, the West Indies were languishing in these formats.
More surprisingly, in T20s, in which they are reigning champions, they were beaten by England.
Further evidence of the unpredictability of this format comes from how the IPL has played out over the past 11 seasons. The first edition (2008) was clinched against all expectations by unfancied Rajasthan Royals, led by inspirational Shane Warne.
The best team on paper then was Deccan Chargers who finished last. But the next season, played in South Africa because of the general elections in India, the Chargers finished on top!
Chennai Super Kings have won the title thrice, as have Mumbai Indians, but nobody gave them a hope in hell of winning the third title when they returned to the competition last season after a two-year suspension.
A sizeable number of players were in their 30s, earning CSK the sobriquet ‘Dad’s Army’. But the team went on to win the title to make for one of the most melodramatic and romantic comebacks in contemporary sport.
Kolkata Knightriders (twice) and Sunrisers Hyderabad have been IPL champions too. But Kohli’s team (for the most part as he started with Delhi Daredevils) Royal Challengers Bangalore has surprisingly not had its name inscribed on the trophy.
I can remember at least four seasons when RCB started as favourites and were the most-tommed side in the League. Yet, despite reaching the final thrice, the title has proved elusive for some reason.
Over quite a few seasons, RCB had perhaps the strongest team on paper, boasting players like Chris Gayle, A B de Villiers, Virat Kohli, K L Rahul, Mitchel Starc, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Daniel Vettori. Many of them were in the same squad. But they stumbled at the final hurdle, if not earlier.
What explains this failure? Clearly, just having big-ticket players is not a guarantee to success. As the format has evolved, it’s become evident that the composition of the team carries greater virtue than star value.