If you are somewhere in the Indian sub-continent and search ‘captain’ on Google, you will see the feed flooded with stories around Virat Kohli quitting the Test captaincy.
Such had been the enormity and impact of Kohli’s captaincy on Indian cricket, the jolt was felt all around the world.
Virat Kohli announced his decision to step down as Test captain on Saturday evening with immediate effect, just a day after India's 2-1 Test series loss against South Africa.
Over a period of more than seven years – since 2015 – the time he took over as a full-time Test captain from MS Dhoni, Kohli set high standards as a captain. It will not be easy for his successors to surpass his records.
Kohli has often spoken about his love for the longest format of the game. One of the reasons that he had been successful as Test captain was the fact that he is so passionate about the format.
His mantra towards Test cricket is pretty simple:
“If you wish to be remembered in cricket history, you need to do well in Test Cricket.”
This is the message he also passed on to his team, as per Mission Domination - a book written by Boria Majumdar and Kushan Sarkar on India’s achievements in Test cricket in recent times.
5 instances which show Kohli was one of the best Test captain
There have been numerous instances which have shown the leadership qualities of Virat Kohli. Motivating fast bowlers, asking the spectators to cheer, celebrating wickets more aggressively than the bowler, and sticking to the crease and scoring the slowest of runs in tumultuous situations for India are hardly a few examples.
But here we take a look at some of the off-field instances that showed Kohli's leadership.
#1 When India won the 2nd Test against England in Chennai, February 2021
Kohli got out for a duck in the first innings to a sharp off-spinner by Moeen Ali. He was left vivid and hung around for a few seconds before walking back to the dressing room.
He adjusted his technique immediately in the second innings against Ali, scoring one of his slowest half centuries – 62 off 149 balls.
After the match, he said:
“We are all here to do a job. And as captain, I will do it to the best of my ability. As long as I am around, you will see me turn up every single day and give my 100 percent. And then in some years it will be time to move on and hand over the baton. That’s how the sport is and each one of us is here to serve the team we play for.”
This was probably an early hint of what has fallen out now. He always knew he had to pass over the baton. He was unable to win an ICC trophy during his tenure as captain. But that can be overruled by the feat of being the number one Test side for such a long period of time and holding the Test Mace for five consecutive years.
#2 When India lost to Australia in Adelaide, December 2020
India were all-out for 36 in the second innings of the day-night Test. It was hard to accept, but the captain was confident enough to say that it was an aberration and would never happen again. He was not afraid to accept the failure.
“I have to take accountability for my failures just as I take responsibility for my success. The media has a job to do. They are within their rights to criticize me if they want. My job as the captain of the Indian cricket team is to lead the team to the best of my ability in all formats of the game."
"As long as I am true to myself and prepare for the best each time I step out to lead India, I am not concerned about what is being said or written about me. I know how hard I work and as long as my preparations are exactly the way I want them to be, results will come.”
#3 When India chased 328 and breached the Gabba fortress, January 2021
India created history by chasing 328 at the Gabba in January 2021. Following the win, they triumphed over Australia in a Test series for the second consecutive time Down Under. While it was India's third-highest chase of all time, Australia were defeated in a Test at the Gabba for the first time in 32 years.
But this was in the absence of then-captain Virat Kohli. He had flown back to India on paternity leave. The right-hander would have always wanted to be there, but he wasn’t. At the start of the fifth day, the authors (Boria Majumdar and Kushan Sarkar) had a conversation with Kohli.
Kohli said that the team had been waiting for this day and that India had the batters to do the job.
“It did not matter if I was [present] there or not, for the men who were [present] at the Gabba were all capable of making history. For years we have prioritized Test cricket. It is time we get the rewards for all the hard work we have put in.”
Kohli was present at the Gabba, despite being absent. That was probably the day India were being prepared for since Kohli took over as captain.
#4 When India won the series against Australia, January 2021
India’s series win over Australia in 2018 was considered to be on the back of the absence of their star players David Warner and Steve Smith. But in 2021, a depleted Indian team beat a full-throttle Aussie side 2-1.
Kohli was not present after the first Test when India made the comeback. However, he was and later said in a press-conference that he was watching the partnership between Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar in the first innings on his phone, right before the birth of his daughter.
He told the authors:
"And let me tell you there is none happier than me for the way we played.”
Ajinkya Rahane hit a brilliant century in Melbourne after the Adelaide debacle to bring the series back on track for India.
"When Ajinkya was batting in Melbourne and had that partnership with Jadeja, I had this feeling we could turn things around and win the Test match. We needed this win not only to level the series but also to make a statement that the first Test match was a one off and will never happen again. Melbourne, as I had tweeted, was a fantastic win, and I was hugely proud of the boys.”
In response to the win in Brisbane against an inexperienced team, Virat said:
“And the way Siraj, Shardul, Washington, Rishabh and the entire team played in Brisbane, it is a sign of things to come. Indian cricket is richer for it. This is the new India I had referred to at the start of the series. These youngsters are far more confident than we were when we started out and as a result Indian cricket is in a good space going forward."
#5 When asked about the requirements of fitness standards in Test cricket
When we speak about Kohli, we can’t forget the kind of fitness standards he has set over the years. He believes it is the first step towards performing well in Test cricket. His emphasis on fitness has also rubbed onto the team, especially when he was the captain.
“The way I want to play Test cricket is if I have to dive and save a single in the 88th over of the day, I should be able to do so time and again. You need to be fit enough to push yourself till the very last ball of the day in the same manner that you do for the first ball.”
Kohli is yet to retire from any format of the game. Although he will no longer be the captain, the right-hander will always have an impact on the team.
It will be worthwhile to see how he performs with the burden of captaincy now removed from over his shoulders.