Mumbai: Indian captain Virat Kohli on Monday categorically refuted rumours of a rift with his deputy Rohit Sharma, saying "people feeding off lies" are being disrespectful to the players' personal lives.
After India's ouster from the World Cup, stories of fissures in the Indian camp emerged with claims that Rohit and Kohli are not seeing eye to eye.
Theories of split captaincy were also floated.
"In my opinion, its baffling. It's absolutely ridiculous to read these kind of stuff, that comes out there. I have been to public events where we have been praised and here we are feeding off lies, overlooking facts, turning a blind eye to all good things that happened and creating fantasies and scenarios in our head. We want to accept that this is the truth," Kohli said.
Adding fuel to all the speculations was a cryptic Instagram post by Kohli's actress wife Anushka Sharma, which was later deleted.
"I have seen this for too long now. Bringing personal lives into the picture. It's disrespectful after a moment. I have played the game for 11 years and Rohit has played for 10 years (12 years) and it's bizarre that people are creating this stuff from outside," the skipper said, with coach Ravi Shastri by his side.
Shastri made a tongue-in-cheek comment about the conspiracy theories.
"Very soon you will hear wives batting and bowling. The way this team plays, no individual is bigger than the game. Not me, not him, nobody in the team. I have a been a part of that dressing room and none of the nonsense is there," the commentator in the former all-rounder came out as he pooh-poohed the rumours.
For Kohli, the Indian team couldn't have performed consistently across formats if there was no camaraderie amongst the players.
"I have also heard a lot of things. Now you can only hear things from outside. If the dressing room environment had been bad, then we couldn't have possibly played the quality of cricket that we played.
"Because I know how the dressing room environment and trust factor becomes important to succeed in international cricket. The journey that we have had in ODIs, in Tests (from No 7 to 1) and T20s, that wouldn't have been possible without camaraderie, respect and understanding," said Kohli, who urged people to come and see the atmosphere in the change-room.
"You people please come to our change room and see, how we speak to a Kuldeep Yadav, how we crack a joke with the senior-most player MS Dhoni. We can't shoot a video and show you guys. It baffles you as a leader, when lies are being floated around to make it look like actually they are believable," Kohli sounded irritated.
He emphatically denied that there could be any awkwardness between him and Rohit due to the events in the past few days.
"If I don't like a person or if I am insecure about a person, you will see it on my face or my behaviour towards the person and that's how simple it is," Kohli said.
"I have always praised Rohit whenever I have got an opportunity because I believe he is that good. I don't know who is benefitting from all of this but we are living, breathing towards getting Indian cricket to the top, and here we get some kind of pleasure in bringing Indian cricket down," the skipper said.
It's time that we all do some introspection, he felt.
"We have to reflect as cricketers everyone can take a step back and think are we creating something that's really not out there. You can't play with that kind of passion if you don't get along with each other. As I said, its baffling and its time that we focus on taking Indian cricket forward," he said.
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COVID-19 cases in the Indian camp led to the cancellation of the fifth and final Test.
It is believed that Dhoni has been brought in for his experience of winning ICC tournaments as a captain.
The decision to hand over the white-ball captaincy to Sharma comes in the wake of Kohli’s decision to focus on his batting as India gears up for two World Cups – T20 and ODI, scheduled between 2022 and 2023 respectively.