Cricket Virat Kohli quitting Test captaincy is a big moment in Indian cricket and replacing him won’t be easy

Cricket Virat Kohli quitting Test captaincy is a big moment in Indian cricket and replacing him won’t be easy

Cricket

It was yet another evening in Indian cricket when a captain decided he has had enough. Another January evening, so to speak. Five years ago, around the same time of the year, MS Dhoni dropped a bombshell, stepping down as captain of the ODI and T20I teams. This time, it is the Test captain Virat Kohli who’s done it. A very quiet exit, and very Dhoni-like. Both marking end to their respective eras. 

An exit made with a short and crisp note on Instagram.

With an Indian flag emoji as caption on the post, he’s made his thoughts very clear. He is always there for the team, but no more as Test captain. 

This resignation must make Indian cricket as emotional as when Dhoni’s era came to an end. What MSD was to the ODIs, Kohli was to the Test. They both made their teams a force to reckon with. Dhoni made headlines by winning one ICC trophy after the other. Kohli took a No 7 ranked side in the world to the top and is still there. Won matches on ground overseas where India had never won. Clinched historic series as well. 

BCCI congratulates #TeamIndia captain @imVkohli for his admirable leadership qualities that took the Test team to unprecedented heights. He led India in 68 matches and has been the most successful captain with 40 wins. https://t.co/oRV3sgPQ2G

— BCCI (@BCCI) January 15, 2022

It would not be an exaggeration to say that he has been, by some distance, the best captain to have ever led an Indian team. Both in terms of results as well as making Test cricket popular among the Indian fans.

His antics, at times clashing with spirit of the game, would make for great TV viewing. He never shed his animated self one bit to avoid getting slammed on Twitter or in the living rooms. Virat will be missed as much for his Test success as for his theatrics

He led from the front and it is not a mere cliche to say about a captain. Virat indeed led like that. Post 2013, he began to make himself fitter and the bug caught the whole team. Today, you rarely see an unfit Indian cricketer even in First-Class cricket. Veteran cricket journalist Ayaz Memon told Amit Varma in a Podcast (The Seen and The Unseen) that once at the breakfast table when he asked coach Ravi Shastri where Kohli was, he told him he was in gym. And when he enquired about the others, Shastri said, “If the captain is in the gym, how can others be out.”

It was not that Kohli made a policy for everyone to copy him but he had raised the standards by himself doing it first and showing the results to others. 

BCCI congratulates #TeamIndia captain @imVkohli for his admirable leadership qualities that took the Test team to unprecedented heights. He led India in 68 matches and has been the most successful captain with 40 wins. https://t.co/oRV3sgPQ2G

— BCCI (@BCCI) January 15, 2022

His public image remains that of a hard task master. And he indeed was one as captain. He wanted to win and that attitude rubbed off on the team. Once after West Indies drew a Test during India’s tour of 2016, Kohli walked away angrily into the dressing room. He looked an upset man, a dejected captain. We wonder what would have been the dressing room chat like from him. Windies had been able to draw the Test from a losing position. India had lost the grip on the Test. Many would say a captain should not behave like that, should keep his composure and not show emotions on the field. But Kohli did not go by these set rules because there are no set rules of captaincy. He captained in his own style and wasn’t ready to copy anyone, not even his mentor Dhoni. He did not wish to become a likeable captain, but an effective captain, captain of a winning team. 

Virat wasn’t one of the captains who showed you mercy on the field for your lack of effort. He would ensure to get the best out of you. He was that kind of guy. 

One of his biggest achievements as Test captain was to ready a team that reflected his self. This Indian Test team was the embodiment of Virat Kohli. He prepared a pace attack with bowling coach Bharat Arun and Ravi Shastri that could take on the best in the world in their own backyard. And he made it possible with Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, combining to become a dangerous attack in different combinations.  

He must be lauded for fast-tracking Bumrahs, Pandyas and Pants to Test cricket. One of the major regrets Kohli must have is not being able to produce an able fast bowling all-rounder for India. Hardik Pandya was one such potential but injuries de-escalated his career and there were no other options after him. Thakur could be that guy but he is still a work in progress. 

Despite these one or two setbacks, along with the failure to fix the fragile middle order, Kohli went on to build a World No 1 Test team which other sides feared.

Today, beating an Indian Test side is an achievement to savour, ask Dean Elgar who stopped India from writing history in South Africa. Ask Kane Williamson who blocked India’s way to the WTC title. The fact that they did that to Virat Kohli’s India is a huge testament to what they have achieved as a unit. 

Courage, Passion, Grit & Determination! _ _

Thank you, @imVkohli! _ _#TeamIndia pic.twitter.com/q36KXhiJac

— BCCI (@BCCI) January 15, 2022

It would be difficult now to watch an Indian Test team not led by Virat Kohli, for it will be difficult for anyone else to match his energy, his results, his achievements and his theatrics. He has raised the benchmark very high and his successor is going to have tough time trying to match it or raise even higher.

Kohli has done his job brilliantly. He has led and brought immense respect to the team with victories everywhere. He was not just the antics, and theatrics, he was also the good work ethics, discipline, hard work and success. He was a combination of all that and more and it will not be easy to replace him.   

For the last 7 years, Virat was the soul of the Test side. He has jumped in elation for wickets, motivated his pacers from behind the stumps, sledged batters, taken verbal fights, challenged opponents in press conferences, played with an unmatched energy. It will interesting to see how India plays without that captain’s soul now.

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