The Indian cricket board's removal of Virat Kohli as the One-day International (ODI) captain was inevitable when he refused to step down after a dismal T20 World Cup, local media said on Thursday.
The star batsman had relinquished his leadership of a T20 side who were eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup — anathema to fans in a country obsessed by cricket.
But Kohli sought to hold on to the ODI captaincy — a plan that came to an unceremonious end when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said late on Wednesday that Rohit Sharma would captain the one-day team on its South Africa tour.
“Virat Kohli refuses to step down, BCCI cracks whip,” the Press Trust of India said in a headline.
The BCCI had waited for the 33-year-old to leave voluntarily as ODI captain, but when he failed to, losing the position was “simply fait accompli”, it said.
Kohli was not informed about his “sacking” beforehand, the Indian Express said.
India's top-order failures in the two defeats — the loss to Pakistan was their first in a World Cup — raised questions about their preparation and leadership.
A terse line at the end of a BCCI statement announcing the Test squad for the upcoming tour confirmed that Sharma, 34, will now lead India in both white-ball formats.
“However great a player Virat Kohli is [...] it is inevitable he will feel a sense of loss,” tweeted cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle.
Sports writer Ayaz Memon said that Sharma “thoroughly deserved” his promotion. He will also be Kohli's deputy in Tests.
But Memon warned that coach Rahul Dravid would need to be “buffer, bridge and big brother” between Kohli and Sharma because “dressing-room dynamics change” during a transition.
Indian sports author Boria Majumdar praised Sharma's elevation but said that it was important to take Kohli “into confidence” and ensure there was “clear communication”.
“For Indian cricket, it's needed,” he added.
Fans online lamented the manner of Kohli's exit.
“A captain who maintained win percentage of 68 per cent in ODIs is surely not supposed to be bidden farewell via a press release with two sentences without even mentioning his name, no,” wrote one.
Kohli has the best winning percentage for an Indian ODI skipper but has faced criticism over the team's inability to win major tournaments.
He has also come under scrutiny as his form has dipped over the last two years. He will still lead India for a three-Test series in South Africa starting December 26.