Virat Kohli had made an incredible start as batsman and captain of Team India in Australia in the 2014-15 series at Adelaide when Mahendra Singh Dhoni pulled out of the first Test due to an injury. He hit hundreds in both the innings and when Australia set a target of 364 in the last innings to chase on a fifth-day pitch, Kohli took on the challenge on a turning track where Nathan Lyon had the final laugh when he got the prize wicket of Kohli to tilt the match in Australia’s favour. But the message to the world was clear, here’s a player who was up for the challenge in any conditions and was there to win and not put the shutters down.
After Dhoni retired from Tests, he scored another hundred in the final Test to save the game. At home, Kohli and India were unbeatable. The Men in Blue trounced South Africa 3-0 in 2015, beat England 4-0 in 2016 and Australia 2/1. He led from the front with the bat scoring double hundreds against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Away from home, he scored a double hundred against West Indies and won the series 2-0. He was scoring hundreds for fun and had a century in every third Test and winning matches for India with his aggressive style of captaincy.
How India started winning abroad and created history
More importantly, India started winning overseas and it all began in 2018 in South Africa where after losing the first two Tests, India won on a difficult pitch at Johannesburg. In England, India might have lost the series 4-1 but the series was much closer than the scoreline showed and Kohli once again led with the bat, scoring 640 runs in that series against James Anderson, his nemesis in the previous series in 2014. But he finally achieved his first big success as captain in Australia winning the Test series 2-1 and creating history as India had never won a series Down Under.
He took India to No 1 in Tests from the seventh position and the stars were shining on him both as captain and as a batter. He could not win the Champions Trophy in 2017 after losing to Pakistan and then the World Cup in 2019 when 45 minutes of madness cost India the semi-finals against New Zealand. His trophy cabinet was still empty after India lost the World Test Championship final to the Kiwis again and that’s when the selectors went after him. He decided to step down from T20 to lessen his burden, but the selectors decided to axe him as captain in ODI too where he has won 16 bilateral series out of 19, which no Indian captain had done.
War of words with Sourav Ganguly
This decision by the selectors hurt him so much that he took on not only the selectors but Sourav Ganguly with a war of words contradicting their statements that he was asked to continue as T20 captain, which he denied at a virtual press conference before the South Africa series. India won the first Test easily, but he missed the second Test in mysterious circumstances complaining of back spasms. So desperate he was to win the last Test to win the series that he took on the host broadcasters when Dean Elgar reviewed a decision, which was given out by the umpires and it got overturned.
He wanted to go on a high as Test captain but could not after having made up his mind to step down from his job. He had won everything and had made India the No 1 Test team and was one captain who made India’s fast bowlers the best in the world. But he lost out to the might of the BCCI in the end. When I saw him playing the first ODI against South Africa at Paarl on Wednesday, the runs were flowing from his bat but the aggressiveness of Kohli on the field was missing, not just from him, but from the entire team. It might not only be the end of Virat captaincy, but I dare say the end of India’s dominance in world cricket.
India are no more No 1 in Test with Australia dethroning them by winning the Ashes. We can only see them going down further and further.