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Virat Kohli steps down as India Test captain


“Everything has to come to a halt at some stage and for me as Test captain of India, it’s now”

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”.

In his tweet, Kohli said: “It’s been 7 years of hard work, toil and relentless perseverance everyday to take the team in the right direction. I’ve done the job with absolute honesty and left nothing out there. Everything has to come to a halt at some stage and for me as Test captain of India, it’s now. There have been many ups and also some downs along the journey, but never has there been a lack of effort or lack of belief. I have always believed in giving my 120 per cent in everything I do, and if I can’t do that, I know it’s not the right thing to do. I have absolute clarity in my heart and I cannot be dishonest to my team.

“I want to thank the BCCI for giving me the opportunity to lead my country for such a long period of time and more importantly to all the team-mates who bought into the vision I had for the team from day one and never gave up in any situation. You guys have made this journey so memorable and beautiful. To Ravi Bhai [Shastri] and the support group who were the engine behind this vehicle that moved us upwards in Test cricket consistently, you all have played a massive role in bringing this vision to life. Lastly, a big thank you to MS Dhoni who believed in me as a captain and found me to be an able individual who could take Indian cricket forward.”

The BCCI, which tweeted a statement congratulating Kohli for his “admirable leadership qualities”, has not indicated when it will name his replacement. Rohit had been appointed full-time vice-captain ahead of the South Africa Tests, but a hamstring injury on the eve of the team’s departure meant he could not make the trip and the selectors then appointed KL Rahul as Kohli’s deputy. Rahul also stood in as captain in the second Test, in Johannesburg, after Kohli pulled out due to back spasms.

Kohli’s stint as Test captain was largely successful, as he oversaw the team’s rise to No.1 in the ICC rankings and several memorable overseas victories. In 2021, he led India to the final of the inaugural World Test Championship in Southampton. Overall, he steps down with the fourth-most wins as captain in Test cricket, with 40 wins from 68 games. Of the other 28, 11 were draws and 17 were losses.

Going by numbers, he was India’s best captain by a distance. Dhoni (27 wins from 60 matches) and Ganguly (21 wins out of 49) are next on the list.

Of his 40 wins, 16 came overseas, including series victories in Sri Lanka (2-1) in 2015, West Indies (2-0) in 2016, Sri Lanka (3-0) in 2017, Australia (2-1) in 2018-19 and West Indies (2-0) in 2019. Under Kohli, after the WTC final, India also led what was originally a five-match series in England 2-1, before the fifth Test was called off because of Covid-19 fears in the Indian contingent.

Kohli is also lauded for his fitness-oriented approach to the game, and will be remembered for using the five-bowler strategy consistently in Test cricket.

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