It is ironic that Virat Kohli finds his reputation, his place and his future in the Indian team questioned on the same hallowed turf where his downfall as a captain was forged in steel only a year ago.

Team India returned to England to fulfill new promises as well as old. En route they managed to exhume a few old skeletons and some new bones. Such has been India's tour of England in consecutive years that this two leg journey is something Kohli might want to either banish from memory, or recall at later, well after the pendulum has swung his way again.

It would appear that once again Virat Kohli's misfortunes, this time with the bat, are the perfect distraction for ground reality as far as Indian cricket is concerned. It would be one way to put what is currently happening. A trial under fire for the former Indian captain who cannot seem to find too many backers in his corner. This, even as the tour has developed somewhat misshapen with India tasting the bitter dose of England's revival of Test fortunes and later, a see-saw battle in the limited overs edition.

While it seems more sensational to discuss if Kohli was dropped from the Twenty-20 series against the West Indies and not rested as stated, the better question to be asked is whether Kohli alone should be at the receiving end of this kind of narrow scrutiny of this rollercoaster tour. After all, Kohli's bat is not the only one that has remained largely silent.

There are several on that same tour who could be called out for being tourists as opposed to contributors, through injury or otherwise. This does not exclude the current Indian captain either, which is perhaps why he has, for the first time in over a year, at least publicly stood by his predecessor.

Kohli should not be unfamiliar with this situation by now. After all, it was nearly at this time last year, at the same venue, the United Kingdom, that the trail to his downfall was laid out under the guise of a long drawn concern which became a convenient excuse, that of a two man mismanagement team. The opportunity was rendered courtesy of Ravi Shastri, the then head coach, at the public launch of his book between Tests, leading to a mini covid resurgence in the Indian camp. Shastri's timing nearly cost India the fifth Test and but for some arm wrestling on the part of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, it might have been without India having taken the field at all.

The ICC World Test championship seemed less of an agenda, the tug of war over the status of the fifth Test revealing the power tussle between boards. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) might not have looked so supine had they not detracted publicly from their earlier statement that India, by failing to show up for the fifth Test. They were holed up in their hotel under a covid scare. The second leg of the Indian Premier League in the UAE was looming on the horizon, and the team had "forfeited" the Test and therefore, their opportunity to win the series.

But a bigger battle was obvious with the BCCI wanting to restore its own power and centre of authority, not limited to the board room. "Too big for his britche." "A two man team." "Running the Indian team like their own personal fiefdom." These familiar and partially justified comments followed quickly in the aftermath from India's own quarters as fingers were levelled at the coach-captain duo of Kohli and Shastri.

In hindsight, rather fortuitously, Shastri bit the bullet as he neared the end of his tenure, cut his losses and chose not to renew his application for a continuing term as India's coach. The issue then conspicuously fell at the feet of the one man left standing, devices of a board that had already made up its mind about him.

If not for the public fallout that culminated in Kohli directly challenging board president Sourav Ganguly's statements about wanting him on board as captain, Kohli might have suffered a quieter fate at the end of the year. In the end, both men lost face as did Indian cricket. A fact largely overlooked by the powers that be, is that their decision is yet to pay off in a big way to activate the perception of the general public with regard to the salaciousness that went down in the name of the game.

Now a year later, Kohli is dethroned but his head is still under water. Rohit Sharma, the foremost choice who has effectively been a captain in a non-playing role for the better part since taking over the role, has been limited due to a host of issues which have included injury, illness as well as conspiracy of each man not wanting to play under the other. However, it is Kohli's silent bat, and his batting position alone that take precedence over the fact that India are still scuttling to find their best eleven ahead of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup scheduled for later this year.

Captain Bumrah. Who would have thought those words would be rendered synonymous with Indian cricket, at least not so soon? With Rohit Sharma once again absent from India's line up due to covid for the rescheduled fifth Test slotted ahead of what was to be a limited overs only tour of England, it fell upon the young fast bowler to lead the team.

If not for Rishabh Pant's heroics with the bat and Bumrah's bowling accolades, India might have been made to eat dirt in addition to humble pie. But not for his maverick antics, even Pant's youth might not have once again helped him avoid the cynosure of eyes that Kohli now faces. In the end, it was another deposed captain who led the way to a handsome win.

England made history chasing down a mammoth total for a win in Edgbaston. But they couldn't have done it without the man they felt they had to let go at all costs, even if it meant appointing a highly talented albeit somewhat edgy choice in an all-rounder who has had his personal battles to deal with. Ben Stokes was captaining the team while Joe Root was felled on the sword of the Ashes.

Yet it was Root's bat that did most of the talking as England etched their way to a memorable win at home, putting some of the pain of the last year behind them while India were left to silently ruminate on what might have been. If India needed a distraction in its wake, they have had some direction with regard to target practice courtesy the BCCI and Ganguly.

Was the BCCI's pandemonium about the fifth Test being rescheduled worth it? In the age of Twenty-20 upheaval, Test cricket fans will take any they can get. The ICC World Test championship would appreciate it. But at the end of the day, it could be questioned how many teams would have managed to get away with not playing a scheduled Test on the itinerary and still have a chance to compete at a later date without the resources of a powerful board.

Had the shoe been on the other foot, would the BCCI have done the same, given that the ECB has obviously far less to offer in the manner of quid pro quo? The power settlement was more obvious as was India's captaincy scenario. But has it changed anything in terms of India's fortunes?

In the wake of nothing to write home about, it seems that Kohli must once again fall on the sword of Damocles. It cannot be argued that Kohli has not scored a century across any format since 2019. It can be argued that Kohli has had a lot on his plate, sometimes having to bat off the field to keep his place, which might have contributed to more than a year when his bat has been overshadowed by his sword and sheath.

Besides, steelier men have not shown up in that time to wrestle his well earned place from him. This close to the World Cup, India would be fools not to give their mainstay batsman a chance at the very least. It is too late in the day to bandy over the idea of horses-for-courses. Can India afford to lose a bankable commodity, with so much in flux and a new captain who is still finding his feet?

If there is talk about the rope being extended for some players more than others, then Indian cricket cannot look much further than their current captain. Rohit Sharma was a gifted batsman of prodigious talent when he burst onto the scene. But while his heroics in the Commonwealth series in Australia in the one day international series in 2008 will be written about to the end of time, what cannot go amiss is that he was not always able to convert that talent in the format many thought he was ideally suited for, Test cricket.

It has taken him a while to ground his bat and stake his claim, and his performances in recent times have been too sketchy to single out Kohli alone. India has two powerhouses looking for their next big hit, or in their case, a streak or string of performances.

One could say that Kohli brought this on himself. Given how he has been prolific as one of the best amongst the world's contemporary batsmen and as consistently as he has been across all formats over the years. He became a virtual brand ambassador for the game and a champion in particular for the five day game, a format which his more successful predecessor with the captaincy hat did not particularly sustain a taste for going into his own sunset.

Ropes have been rather lengthy and knotty for a time in Indian cricket. Lest we forget, it should be reminded that Mohinder Amarnath took the fall as a selector. It was under the presidency of N. Srinivasan when Amarnath suggested that perhaps it was time for India to move on from Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain in the five day format.

Kohli does not have a benevolent godfather in the boardroom which might explain a lot about the headlines that have dominated Indian cricket, particularly since that last tour of England.

No player, no matter how illustrious, has not been able to escape the bane of scrutiny when numbers no longer match his reputation. The question here is not whether Kohli is still relevant to Indian cricket. India cannot afford to lose him while Rohit is in a rather transitory phase trying to put his team composition together. It is a question of whether Kohli still has the hunger and will to carry on. He has not shown an intent otherwise.

If there is talk about Kohli being distracted by sponsorships and endorsements, might one point out that there was also talk about Dhoni having extended his retirement announcement in order to fulfil similar sponsorships, also at the behest of the BCCI. Besides, for the BCCI to call Kohli money-minded is the pot calling the kettle black.

Their own avariciousness no more evident in the manner in which they thought they could brazen it out with the IPL in the midst of the pandemic's second wave in India and muscling their way through other tours and boards in the first year of the pandemic in order to ensure that the IPL would go ahead, albeit abroad, even if no other cricket tournament of significance could do the same.

Rohit Sharma sounded exasperated at the post match press conference after the second one day international. Essentially beating the same drum, as he did after the first one day internationals where he threw his weight publicly anyway behind his predecessor, and said "Kyon ho rahi hain, yaar? (Why is this happening?) Matlab mujhe samajh nahi atta, bhai. (I am unable to comprehend it)."

He added, "he (Kohli) has played so many matches. He is playing for so many years. He is such a great batsman so he does not need assurance. I pointed to this in my last press conference too. Form goes up and down. That is part and parcel of any cricketer's career. A player like him, who has played for so many years, who has made so many runs, who has won so many matches, only needs one or two good innings. That is my thinking and I am sure all those who follow cricket will think similarly."

It is valuable to also note the current Indian head coach's thoughts on the issue, taking on board the pertinent point he made. When talking on the subject of form and whether a player like Kohli needs to be dropped, Rahul Dravid talked about the importance of a "match winning innings" over the priority to score centuries.

What he did not say was that having players who can play those kind of match winning innings, often single handedly, was also the need of the hour as far as Team India was concerned. This was one of the attacks levelled against Kohli.

Words from the head coach and captain can be taken at face value, or can be debated endlessly, given how the stories of rifts between the current and past captain have done the rounds. But it speaks to India's current crisis where a clear path to the future is still not etched out for either Dravid or Sharma to breathe easy.

While some have suggested it would be akin to carrying extra baggage if an out-of-form Kohli was picked for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia later this year, India cannot afford not to take that risk. Rohit too has been out of form and so was Pant until recently, none of them really set the stage of fire in the recently concluded edition of the IPL.

This seems to have become the all-consuming criteria and basis on which the pitch is being made for other players to take Kohli's place with a few international matches still to go before the commencement of the ICC Twenty-20 World Cup.