Virat Kohli: The captain of all captains

Virat Kohli has been the most successful Test skipper of India with 40 wins, and though he did not win the World Cup, the ODI numbers are at par with legends.

Virat Kohli bows out as India’s most successful Test captain.   -  REUTERS

There are captains on the cricket field, and then there are leaders. Virat Kohli is a leader. And the superman batter’s resignation from Test captaincy will not impair the side that bloomed under him. He will continue to plant seeds of leadership among the younger crop. As Kohli prepares for his new innings, just as a batter, it is imperative to note how the leader introduced a growing belief to win from any situation in any format, a fitness culture in the cricketing ecosystem, and a pace bowling pack to win Test matches overseas.


ODI records

Kohli did not win ICC trophies in white-ball cricket, but he is the third­-best ODI skipper [minimum 90 matches] with a win percent of 70.43. Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who won two World Cups, tops the chart with 76. 14 percent, followed by the late Hansie Cronje of South Africa, who stands at 73.70 percent. 

And India won 15 out of 19 bilateral series under Kohli that included victories in South Africa, Australia, and the West Indies. 

The 5­1 series triumph in South Africa in 2018 would rank as one of his best as he registered three centuries, including an unbeaten 160 at Cape Town.

Kohli has been fiercely competitive as captain­batter. The right­-hander scored 21 centuries — the most by an Indian captain in the format. He is only behind Ponting, who smashed 22, but the Australian was captain for 10 years, whereas the Indian got the full­-time role in white ball in January 2017 when Mahendra Singh Dhoni stepped down.

Kohli has the best average (72.65) as ODI captain [minimum 75 games]. South Africa legend AB de Villiers is second at 63. 94 in 103 games. T20I milestones The run machine is a different beast in T20Is. He learnt the art of chasing from his predecessor, Dhoni. And as captain, he won 30 out of 50 games with 16 losses.

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Kohli is the second­-highest run­scorer (1,570) in T20Is as captain, after Aaron Finch (1,724) in 56 games. But he was the fastest among all captains to reach 1,000 T20I runs [30 innings]. Pakistan skipper Babar Azam broke the record recently by achieving the feat in his 26th.

The unbeaten 94 off 50 against West Indies in Hyderabad stands tall among the top performances. Kohli hit six fours and as many sixes to help chase down the target of 208 with eight balls to spare. The 54­-ball 82 against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2017 comes second in terms of impact knocks.

The Test ace

He is a true ambassador of Test cricket. He likes challenges, especially when playing overseas. The process to become a superpower in the red­ball format began in 201415. He had challenged a ferocious Mitchell Johnson in the tour Down Under.

India lost the series, but Kohli won. A young leader then, Kohli was straight out of the wild west. He fought fire with fire. And he scored four centuries in the series — three as captain, two of which came in the Adelaide Test that India lost by only 48 runs while chasing 364.

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Four years later, he completed the devastation of the Aussies in the tour of 201819 with his pace pack — comprising Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, and Jasprit Bumrah — breathing fire.

In 2021, the 2­1 domination in England — with one more Test to go — completed the full circle.

Kohli has led India in 68 Tests, the most by any player, and he won 40 of them. He is the most successful captain in the format with a win percent of 59; Dhoni won 27 out of 60 Tests, and his percentage reads 45. In world cricket, only Graeme Smith of South Africa (53), Ponting (48), and Steve Waugh (41) have won more Tests than Kohli.


Hot and moody

Kohli perhaps could have handled the limited­-overs careers of R. Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, and Yuzvendra Chahal better.

Ashwin had disappeared after the Champions Trophy in 2017. He made a comeback after four years in the T20 World Cup. The wrist spin duo of Kuldeep and Chahal, groomed as specialists in the shortest format, never made it to the squad.

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The moody Delhi boy often ran into trouble for his blunt nature. He calls a spade a spade, and it never mattered if the world agreed or not. At times, the anger also backfired, like the recent stump mic chatter at Cape Town. South Africa found motivation in the emotional outburst and took the game away.

But any player leading the side for more than five years leaves an impact. And by now, every player in the team has a bit of Kohli in them. The aggression will not die, and if there are doubts, one can rewind to 2012 to catch his 133 not out blitzkrieg in 86 balls against Sri Lanka in Hobart.  He was a batter then, and he will be a batter again.