MUMBAI (Reuters) – India captain Virat Kohli on Monday quashed reports of a rift with senior batsman Rohit Sharma, calling the rumours “baffling” and “ridiculous” before the team’s departure for a tour of the West Indies.
Since India’s exit in the semi-finals of the 50-over World Cup this month, reports of a crack in relations between Kohli and his limited-overs deputy Rohit have dominated local media.
“Even I have heard a lot of things in the last few days. You obviously get to hear these things from outside,” Kohli told reporters at a city hotel.
“If the team environment was not good, then the way we have been playing in the last two-three years, that would not have been possible.
“I know how much the dressing room atmosphere, the trust is essential in succeeding in international cricket so if that was not there, then whatever success we have achieved, would not have been possible, we would not have been at the position we are in world cricket.”
Kohli’s men sit atop the world test rankings while they are second behind World Champions England in the 50-over format.
Rohit scored five centuries in the World Cup in England to top the batting charts with 648 runs and Kohli, who is the top-ranked batsman in both tests and ODIs, said he only had respect for the 32-year-old.
“In my opinion it is baffling to be honest. It is absolutely ridiculous to read such stuff that comes out there,” he added.
“We are feeding off lies, we are overlooking facts. We are turning a blind eye to all the good things that have happened and creating fantasies and scenarios in our head and we want to accept that it is the truth.
“And I have seen this for too long now. Bringing personal lives into the picture, it is disrespectful after a moment.”
India will play three T20s, three ODIs and two tests against the West Indies with the series also marking the start of the World Test Championship for both teams.
The long-awaited test championship, involving the nine top-ranked test nations competing in a league till April 2021, has been designed to give more meaning to test cricket.
The revamped Future Tours Programme (FTP) will see teams play three home-and-away series over a two-year cycle. The top two teams will then progress to a June 2021 final.
“It’s a great thing, we all have been looking forward to it. I feel it will give context to all the cricket we would play. It’s a great thing for test cricket at the moment,” Kohli added.
“Test cricket really needed a boost… It was important to have an incentive attached to test cricket in a way which the test championship presents. I’m glad that people have thought about test to keep it relevant with the test championship.
“I think for the pure joy of playing cricket and executing your skills as a cricketer test cricket is the most important format. For me nothing comes above test cricket.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Christian Radnedge)