Virat Kohli’s Paternity Leave: Right or Wrong?

A few days ago, as soon as BCCI announced that Virat Kohli would be taking paternity leave to be by the side of his wife, Anushka Sharma during the delivery of their first-born child, there was a furore in the cricket world. There were both angry reactions and congratulatory messages. To be honest, even Virat wouldn’t have expected such a mixed response.

But is this a matter worth being discussed? Let’s look into the irony of this situation first. The two legendary batsmen in whose honour the current series, Border-Gavaskar Trophy is played, Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar, have interesting anecdotes from a similar situation. It is said that Allan Border was batting when the news of his son being born reached him. He flashed a huge smile and then continued to bat. Sunil Gavaskar was on the twin tour of New Zealand and West Indies when Rohan Gavaskar was born, and Sunil didn’t see Rohan for at least a month after he was born.

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Or, we could look at the stories from our current times. MS Dhoni was playing the 2015 World Cup when his daughter, Ziva, was born. But, he waited for the tournament to conclude before going back to see his first-born. But the point to be kept in mind is that the World Cup is a once in a lifetime tournament, especially for a captain.

And hasn’t sport evolved from Border and Gavaskar’s time to Smith and Kohli’s time? The modern sport requires the audience to be a little empathetic. It needs us to be empathetic of the players who constantly battle trolls and abusers online, and now, the luxurious prison called quarantine has made their lives more difficult.

And this paternity leave just gives us a reminder that these cricketers are humans at the end of the day. Remember, Virat’s actual plan was to be by the side of his wife during the delivery, and return for the final Test match. But this plan was disturbed by the two-way quarantine he had to go through in such a case.

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And only one big reason can be traced to why Virat’s paternity leave is causing such a controversy.

India isn’t facing any small team here. India is facing the mighty Aussies on their home turf for a Test series. And this is a squad that has four modern-day greats in Steve Smith, David Warner, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc. While India is no less of a Test team, the fact that Virat is one of the team’s best batsmen is a fact that can’t be ignored. Especially against Australia, he loves scoring those centuries.

But let’s look at the positives that can be drawn from Virat’s absence:

It gives the opportunity for a youngster to step up. Remember the time when Steve Smith was ruled out due to injury and Marnus Labuschagne stepped in? Now, Labuschagne is troubling the best bowlers in the world. It might give a similar chance to the Indian batsmen too. It might throw in a chance for KL Rahul or Shubman Gill to take Virat’s batting spot. Or even Hanuma Vihari can come up his regular batting position. There are an ocean of opportunities Virat’s exclusion will give us.

Another great opportunity would be for Ajinkya Rahane to prove his mettle as a Test captain. Rahane, who himself has been having a rough patch might be bolstered by the fact that he is a captain.

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Rahane and Pujara will be key to India’s success in the absence of Kohli

So, let us look at the human side of the problem and empathise with Virat. As much as he is an international cricketer, he is a family man too. So, to end with a quote from my favourite commentator:

Families last a lifetime, cricket tours don’t, so wish Kohli well.

Harsha Bhogle

Featured Image: Anushka Sharma | Instagram

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