January 2015, India had suffered yet another overseas loss and had slipped to number 7 in the ICC Test rankings. Virat Kohli managed to secure a draw at the SCG pink Test in his first game as a permanent captain of the Indian side.
Four years later, the same captain but with a grey beard is on the Australian soil as the leader of the number 1 Test team. A lot of things have transpired in these four years, and Kohli has played a significant part in taking India to number 1 from number 7.
It all began in Adelaide (2014) and Sydney (2015) which showed us one thing that Virat Kohli is determined to take Indian cricket forward. He had scored a breath-taking 692 runs himself (highest for an Indian in Australia) on that tour, but wasn’t satisfied for he always says that individual contributions are irrelevant to him if his team isn’t on the winning side.
Going for the kill and the never give up attitude under Kohli has undoubtedly reaped rewards to the team. August 2015, India were trailing 1-0 in Srilanka but came back strongly in the next two Tests to win the series 2-1. Not many teams manage to win the series after going down in the first match of the series, and it was a commendable effort by Kohli to guide his troops and give them the belief to turn things around in the next two Tests.
Later that year, Virat faced a stiff task of facing the then number 1, South Africa. South Africa were coming off with no losses in the previous two years and had also won the ODI series against India before the Test series began. They were brimming with confidence. They had even managed to draw the Test series in their last tour to India.
But, Kohli and his team managed to win 3-0, and it would have been a perfect whitewash if not for the washout in the 2nd Test at Bengaluru where South Africans were struggling. That series marked the beginning of a great leader.
Kohli went from strength to strength in the coming years as India became a dominant force at home. In the process, Kohli also scored six double centuries in Tests, a feat achieved by no Indian captain before Kohli. India also won 4-0 at home against a side (England) they had lost 1-2 in their previous tour.
But it was the year 2018, the acid Test Kohli had to pass to be even considered close to greatness in the eye of the experts. One would be naive to say nothing has changed under Kohli just by looking at the score lines in South Africa and England.
Although India lost 2-1 and 4-1 in South Africa and England respectively, India fought hard, and all the games were contested closely and apart from the match at Lords, there wasn’t any game where the team was outplayed.
Kohli shows great faith in the pacers even in native conditions and uses his horses to great effect on Home soil. The most recent evidence is that of Umesh Yadav bagging ten wickets in a Test match at home, a feat achieved only twice before him. The backing of pacers has undoubtedly changed the mindset of the fast bowlers who are now always looking to take wickets and has helped India achieve great success in the overseas Tests this year.
The pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami bagged 136 wickets this year. Kohli also needs to be credited for the inclusion of Bumrah who hadn’t played much of first-class cricket in the last couple of years. Many experts and online forums had criticized Kohli for getting in Bumrah, but today Bumrah has scalped 48 wickets in this year, the most by an Indian pacer.
Virat is now the captain with most overseas win by an Indian alongside another legend Sourav Ganguly. Virat has undoubtedly changed the outlook of the team where the bowlers are always confident of picking up wickets even when the chips are down. A lot of credit needs to be given to the Delhi lad for building the pace battery we have today who don an aggressive hat on the field.
While the batsmen have disappointed us in the away tours, Kohli has led by example in this department as well, being the leading scorer in South Africa and England. The batting has certainly improved in Australia, and a series victory in Australia will in no terms be short of any significant achievement.
At the end of his tenure, Kohli may or may not be considered as one of the great leaders to have represented India. But he will certainly be remembered for marshalling his pacers and building a great pace battery who carry the aggressive approach to win India games from any situation. He will also be recognized as a captain whom every opposition feared facing.