Virat Kohli stunned the Indian cricketing fraternity with his decision to quit as Test captain following the three-match series against South Africa. Ahead of the series, many experts had predicted that this was India’s best chance to win in the Rainbow Nation considering the inexperience in the opposition camp. Moreover, while India began with an impressive 113-run triumph in Centurion, they failed to capitalize on the great start and lost the series 1-2. Despite the loss, Kohli quits with the record of having won most Tests as India’s captain – 40 out of 68. With the 33-year-old reign as Indian captain coming to an end, we recap the rise and fall of Kohli.
Incredible start with the bat Down Under
With MS Dhoni unavailable for the 1st Test of 2014/15 series in Australia, Kohli was handed the mantle of leadership for the Adelaide encounter. He responded to the responsibility with a hundred in each innings. India were set an improbable 364 to win the Test, but Kohli went after the target. As long as he was at the crease, India had hope. India were 242 for 2 in the chase at one stage, when Murali Vijay was dismissed for 99. The visitors crumbled after that, and, running out of partners, Kohli was seventh out at the score of 304. India slipped to 315 to lose the Test by 48 runs.
After Dhoni announced his shock retirement from Test cricket, Kohli was made full-time captain during the Australia series itself. He responded with 147 and 46 in Sydney. India drew the Test, finishing on 252 for 7 in their second innings, after being set 349. Although India lost the series 2-0, Kohli ushered in a new era in Indian cricket in the New Year.
In the two-year period between 2016 and 2017, India were completely dominant at home. In fact, Kohli ended his stint without a single Test series defeat in India. The hosts trounced South Africa 3-0 in 2015, England 4-0 in 2016 and Australia 2-1 (although Kohli missed the last Test). Kohli struck double hundreds against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh, and two against Sri Lanka during this period. Away from home, he registered 200 in West Indies. There were a few other big hundreds as well. This was also the time when his aggressive style of captaincy, backed by his tremendous batting performances, started winning him, several admirers.
Learning to win away from home and history Down Under
India began 2018 with the hope of winning their maiden Test series in South Africa, just like in the recently-concluded series. However, India put up poor batting efforts in the first two Tests to concede the series. Then, they lifted themselves with a memorable win in Johannesburg. Although India lost the 2018 series in England by a 4-1 margin, the Tests were far more closely contested. India competed almost every time. However, a newcomer named Sam Curran always stole the show away from them, either with the bat or ball. Kohli’s finest moment as captain was undoubtedly winning the 2018-19 Test series Down Under, thus creating history. Although Australia were without David Warner and Steve Smith, it was a significant achievement nonetheless.
An ignominious exit as captain
Although Kohli achieved incredible highs as captain, his last few months will be remembered mostly for controversial reasons. Under him, India put up an insipid show in the WTC final and were completely out of sync in the T20 World Cup 2021. Kohli stepped down as T20 captain and then took on BCCI by publicly declaring a war of words with the cricket board president Sourav Ganguly. He then skipped most of the press conferences during the Tests in South Africa, was mysteriously unfit for the second Test and had a needless interaction with the stump mic in Cape Town. His bat, unfortunately, did not do enough talking. As a result, India lost yet another Test series in South Africa, and the writing was on the wall. End of Captain Kohli’s era in Indian cricket.