January 17, 2022 - 11:13 am

Virat Kohli Steps Down As Indian Cricket Test Captaincy

    Virat Kohli shocked the Indian cricket world by abruptly resigning as the national side's Test captain, with immediate effect, a day after losing the Test series to South Africa 2-1 with a seven-wicket loss in Cape Town, after leading the team to memorable overseas victories in his seven years in charge. This marked the end of Kohli’s journey as a skipper, as he had earlier relinquished T20I captaincy followed by the selectors’ decision to remove him from ODI leadership. He took over as full-time Test captain in early 2015, when MS Dhoni had announced retirement in Australia, and ended up as India's most successful Test captain ever.

    Kohli's sudden announcement on Twitter comes on the back of a series of public exchanges between him and the BCCI, which started with his T20I resignation before the 2021 World Cup. In early December, the BCCI then stripped Kohli of the ODI captaincy, naming Rohit Sharma the new white-ball leader. A day later, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said that he had asked Kohli not to step down as T20I captain, but Kohli soon contradicted Ganguly, saying his decision to step down was "received well", termed as "progressive" by the BCCI top brass, and that he "wasn't told to reconsider" his decision. Kohli also expressed his disappointment in the same press conference, saying he had been told about his removal as ODI captain just 90 minutes before the selection meeting to pick the Test squad for South Africa, and "there was no prior communication to me at all".   The controversy stretched further when chief selector Chetan Sharma - while announcing the ODI squad for the South Africa tour on December 31 - said "everyone who was present in the meeting" asked Kohli to reconsider his decision when he stepped down as T20I captain.

    Kohli’s captaincy era began when he deputised for MS Dhoni in the opening Test of the series away in Australia in 2014, a match that India lost by 48 runs despite centuries in both innings from their young stand-in skipper. And Kohli took over the reins permanently from Dhoni for the fourth and final Test of the series, where his first-innings 147 saw him become the first batter in men’s Test history to score three centuries in their first three innings as Test captain. Kohli’s 692 runs in that four-Test series loss are still the most ever by an Indian batter in a series in Australia. Since the end of that series in Australia in 2014/15, Kohli turned India into the dominant force in world Test cricket, losing just five of 24 Test series, including the one-off ICC World Test Championship Final in 2021, and the most recent series in South Africa. During that period Kohli led India to the top of the ICC Test Rankings, a spot which the team held for 42 consecutive months from October 2016 through to March 2020.

    Kohli’s seven-year stint as India’s Test captain may have ended with a series defeat in South Africa, but his spell in charge yielded historically successful results. No player in history has more Test caps as India captain than Kohli’s 68, while his 40 wins as captain is the most of any Indian Test player. Those 40 wins also make Kohli the fourth most successful captain in Test history, behind only Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh. Having already stepped down as T20I captain in September 2021 and then being replaced as ODI captain in December 2021, Kohli’s decision to hand over the Test captaincy brings to an end an era in Indian cricket that will go down in history as one of the most successful of all time.