After seven years at the helm, Virat Kohli shook the cricketing world by quitting as India’s Test captain on Saturday. The decision came a day after India’s disappointing loss to South Africa in the Test series. After this stunning move, Virat will no longer lead India in any format of the game.
Why he has given up the captaincy is unclear and the exact reasons for the same will remain a mystery until Kohli himself speaks out. The questions can be addressed later but now is the time to salute the most successful Test captain that India has seen. No one has a better record than him. Not even MS Dhoni or Sourav Ganguly – and that is some feat.
Statistics don’t lie, Virat wasn’t just the most successful Indian Test captain but one of the most successful in the world. Of the 68 Test matches that Kohli captained, India won 40. Virat’s success as a skipper-cum-batsman over the past 7 years is even more impressive. He scored the most runs (5864) and the most centuries (20) by an Indian captain in Tests. He also has the most double hundreds by a captain in Tests (7) and the highest batting average by an Indian Test skipper (54.80). Most captains find it tough to better their averages leading the side with extra responsibilities but Kohli was the rare one who improved his batting records despite the captaincy challenge. Clearly, he can be justly proud of his feats as a skipper.
The numbers tell a story but they won’t tell you of his fierce desire and determination to play and win at test cricket. Kohli turned the culture of the Indian team into one which was fitness-oriented, aggressive and had an insatiable appetite to win. As a leader, he had the guts to play 5 bowlers to take 20 wickets and win rather than packing the side with batters to play safe.
He took over the captaincy from M.S. Dhoni on the 2014-15 Australia tour. It was also the tour that ensured that he will be seen as one of the best batsmen of all time after he retires from the game. He scored hundreds at will but it was his aggressive run chase as the stand-in Captain in Adelaide which showed the path Indian Cricket Team was to travel on for the next few years. He had big shoes to fill in and he did. Virat took the Indian Test Team from the seventh position in rankings to number one over the past seven years.
Unfortunately for Kohli, his decision comes a day after India lost the Test series against South Africa, the one place where the team has never won a series. The Indian team were favorites and were all set to create history after winning the first Test. But then, Kohli had a back spasm in the next match and didn’t play. India lost the match under K.L.Rahul’s captaincy. The final match was lost under Kohli’s captaincy which sadly ended his dream of ensuring victories in SENA countries as Indian Captain.
It may not be all that bleak for Kohli to resign from captaincy. Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar had a torrid time as captain and even his batting form dipped when he was at the helm. Sachin’s decision to quit as Captain, though he was the most influential cricketer of his time, much like Kohli today, had removed the extra pressure which prolonged his career.
Last November, Virat celebrated his 33rd birthday, and while his cricketing prime may be behind him, he still remains one of the best batsmen in the world. However, despite team successes, Kohli’s batting form in the past two years has been well below his usually high standards. This indicates that he may well be looking to regain his batting mojo by giving up captaincy burdens.
Then again, it may be a pre-emptive move as well. Instead of being removed by BCCI honchos, Virat decided to move away himself. The Kohli-BCCI battle of nerves has been an open secret and his spat with Saurav Ganguly has made headlines for weeks!
With Rohit now leading in white-ball formats, it may have been a matter of time before Virat was asked to give up even as Test captain. The Indian team has never been the one to experiment with the split captaincy. Even in the Dhoni- Kohli era, the narrative was clear. Kohli considered Dhoni as his mentor and he was being groomed to take the role which he eventually did. With Rohit and Kohli both in command of different formats, two power centres could well have been detrimental to Indian cricket.
For the moment, fans and former teammates have poured in their tributes for Virat, the successful skipper. He has been a terrific leader, one who led by example. His new beginning might be a blessing in disguise for him as well as Indian cricket. What India needs most urgently is Kohli’s bat to fire more powerfully. Despite an exceptional bowling armoury, a misfiring middle order batting lineup has turned into an Achilles heel for Team India. With the burden of captaincy gone, fans hope to see a run-feast from Virat’s willow which may soon yield the much-awaited ton that has eluded King Kohli for over two years.