Almost four months after he informed of his decision to step down as skipper of India’s T20I team, Virat Kohli has relinquished the captaincy of the Test side. The groundbreaking announcement from Kohli, who was in December removed as India’s ODI captain, comes a day after India’s 1-2 Test series defeat to South Africa.
Kohli steps down as India’s most successful Test captain of all time, having led the team to 40 wins from 68 matches with an impressive win percentage of 58.82. This is most by any skipper with more than 10 Tests as captain, way ahead of MS Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly and Mohammed Azharuddin, who captained India in 60, 49 and 47 Tests respectively. Kohli also ends his captaincy career as the fourth most successful Test skipper of all time in terms of wins behind Graeme Smith (53), Ricky Ponting (48), and Steve Waugh (41) in terms of wins
“It’s been 7 years of hard work, toil and relentless perseverance everyday to take the team in the right direction. I’ve done the job with absolute honesty and left nothing out there. Every thing has to come to a halt at some stage and for me as Test Captain of India, it’s now,” Kohli said in a release issued on Twitter.
“There have been many ups and also some downs along the journey, but never has there been a lack of effort or belief. I have always believed in giving my 120 percent in everything I do, and if I can’t do that, I know it’s not the right thing to do. I have absolute clarity in my heart and I cannot be dishonest to my team.”
Kohli’s first Test as captain was against Australia in Adelaide during the 2014/15 series, where he led gallantly in the absence of Dhoni, who had missed out due to a finger injury. India came close to a historic Test win Down Under before a final-innings batting collapse saw them go down by 48 runs. With Dhoni retiring from Tests in January of 2015, the Kohli era had arrived. In his first assignment as full-time captain of Team India was in August that year, Kohli led India to their first away series win in four years, beating Sri Lanka 2-1.
What transpired was a remarkable journey that unfolded with many firsts. Under Kohli, India became a formidable force in Test cricket as they started winning Test matches abroad. For five years, India finished the year as the No.1-ranked Test side and reached the final of the first-ever World Test Championship. Kohli’s batting record as captain is equally phenomenal, with 5864 runs scored at an average of 54.80 including 20 centuries and 18 fifties.
“I want to thank the BCCI for giving me the opportunity to lead my country for such a long period of time and more importantly to all my teammates who bought into the vision I had for my team from day one and never gave up in any situation. You guys have made this journey so memorable and beautiful.”
Kohli’s biggest achievement as captain would remain leading India to their first Test series win in Australia in 71 years. In the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2018/19, Kohli’s India beat Australia 2-1 to achieve an accolade which no Indian team had before. Things only got better from there, as in the summer of 2021, Kohli’s India gave England a tough fight to lead the series 2-1 and were on the verge of wrapping up a memorable win before the final match was postponed.
And while Kohli’s India gave fans the expectations of winning overseas, it remained unbeaten at home. In 31 Tests at home as Kohli in charge, India lost only three. With former head coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharat Arun, Kohli transformed the Indian unit into a formidable pace unit, with the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj coming to the fore. This unit was capable of picking all 20 wickets in a Test and still continues to do so.
“To Ravi bhai and the support group who were the engine behind this vehicle that moved us upwards in Test cricket constantly, you all have played a massive role in bringing this vision to life. Lastly, a big thank you to MS Dhoni who believed in me as Captain and found me to an able individual who could take Indian Cricket forward.”
Having said that, Kohli’s tenure as India’s Test captain ended on a disappointing note as the team couldn’t beat South Africa on their soil in what could have been another historic first. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that Kohli’s contribution to this Test team has been of magnanimous proportions and one that has paved the way for an even brighter future.