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Virat Kohli will start as a player for India for the first time since 2016, when he assumed the captains' role. Image Credit: AFP

India’s first challenge without Virat Kohli as captain begins on Wednesday when they take on South Africa in the first One Day Internationals (ODI) at Paarl. This will be the first time in any format Kohli will be playing only as a player and not as captain since the end of 2016, which is going to be a big challenge for team India and also for the fans to adjust.

Just for the record Kohli has played 254 ODIs till date and scored 12,169 runs at an astonishing average of 59 with a mind-blowing strike-rate of 93, which is the best in the world for any player who has played more than 100 ODIs. During his tenure as captain, India played 95 ODIs and won 65 and lost 27.

In his first ODI series, he won at home 2/1 against England, who had never lost a series to any team after 2015 World Cup. His first big ICC tournament was the Champions Trophy where India eased in to the final only to be stunned by Pakistan. India then won against West Indies 3/1, beating them easily at their home and when they travelled to Sri Lanka, India blanked Sri Lanka 5/0.

The series win continued against Australia when the Men in Blue beat the Aussies 4/1 and New Zealand 2/1. His most memorable series win was in South Africa, where India had never won, beating the Proteas 5/1 quite easily. Kohli continued his winning streak against West Indies at home, winning 3/1.

The first series India lost under his captaincy was in 2018 in England, going down 2/1, but India created history in Australia by first winning the Test series. Kohli marched on to win 4/1 against New Zealand, but had a setback against the Aussies going down 3/2 after winning the first two games. His biggest challenge was the ICC World Cup where India started as favourites and beat Australia, Pakistan and topped the group after losing one game, but were stunned by the Kiwis at Manchester in the semi-finals. India then beat West Indies again at their home 2/0 and carried on the good work at home, beating the Aussies 2/1.

But after winning the T20 series 5/0, India were blanked by the Kiwis 3/0 and were beaten again in Australia 2/1, which was Kohli’s only third loss in a bilateral series. His last series as ODI captain was in March last year when India beat the world champions 2/1.

Kohli won 13 ODI bilateral series and lost just three, which shows his phenomenal success as an ODI captain, but was still axed. He had said he wanted to captain India in ODI, but the selectors had other ideas, which led to him even stepping down from Test captaincy.

How team India will cope with a new captain only time will tell. But I can dare say his 44th ODI hundred coming in this series against the Proteas. Watch out for the King.