Virat Kohli quit as the Test captain of the Indian cricket team following their loss to South Africa but the situation that was developing prior to the tour perhaps played a part.
It was not quite a 16-word statement that MS Dhoni issued while announcing his retirement from international cricket. But, in 23 lines on his Instagram account, Virat Kohli stepped down as the Test captain of the Indian cricket team. Now, for the first time since 2012, Virat Kohli will not be a captain of either India or for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. For a moment, fans were scared that he had announced his retirement. But, on closer inspection, it proved to be just the resignation as the Test captain.
In a period of seven years, Virat Kohli has won 40 Tests and lost only 17. He has the best winning percentage in the history of Indian captains. When he took over as the captain, they were seventh in the world. Now, they are No.1. Virat Kohli’s brother, fans, IPL teams, and many veteran players hailed Virat Kohli’s tenure as the captain. Curiously, Jay Shah and the BCCI also congratulated Virat Kohli’s achievements as captain. Even more curiously, one hour after Virat Kohli made the statement, Sourav Ganguly had not posted a message on social media.
Of course, not posting a message on social media nowadays leads to a lot of conspiracy theories. But, the quitting of the Test captaincy was like a sitting Time Bomb for Virat Kohli and the BCCI. Prior to the tour to South Africa, the fuse was lit. It only exploded after the debacle at Cape Town.
The fire was already lit when the team selection was been done for the South Africa series. When that had ended, the chairman of selectors apparently told Virat Kohli that he had to step down as the captain of the ODI team and hand it over to Rohit Sharma. Kohli apparently responded with just a yes. There was no press conference announcing the change in captaincy. Just a tweet.
But, in the days to come, when the team was in South Africa, the issue became grave. It had emerged reportedly that the BCCI had given Kohli an ultimatum of 48 hours to step aside as the ODI captain. If he did not do it, then the BCCI would go ahead and announce the decision. However, in the press conference, Virat Kohli countered the BCCI and said there was no prior communication over the ODI captaincy.
In the pre-match press conference, Kohli had said, “Whatever was said about the communication that happened during the decision that was made was inaccurate. I was contacted one and a half hours before the selection meeting on the 8th for the Test series. And there was no prior communication with me at all since I announced the T20 captaincy decision up till the 8th. The chief selector discussed with me the Test team to which we both agreed, and before ending the call, I was told that the five selectors have decided that I will not be the ODI captain. To which I replied, ‘ok fine’.”
But, Ganguly had a different version. In addition, he also expressed disappointment over Kohli’s attitude. “I personally requested him (Kohli) not to give up T20 captaincy. Obviously, he felt the workload. Which is fine, he has been a great cricketer. He has been very intense with his cricket. He has captained for a long period of time and these things happen. Because I have captained for a long period of time; therefore, I know. Also, they wanted only one white-ball captain. And that’s why this decision.” In another event, Ganguly stated, “I like Virat Kohli’s attitude but he fights a lot.”
The fact that India did not win a Test series in South Africa was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It has also been documented that Kohli has not been performing with the bat for two years now. Lack of contributions with the bat, plus questions over his attitude might perhaps have forced Kohli to take the decision.
Ganguly has shown that he is not going to tolerate indiscipline. It is kind of deja-vu in the case of Ganguly and Kohli over the captaincy. In 2005, Ganguly’s removal as captain by Greg Chappell did not go down well with him and the team. The result was a team fracture that lasted for two years. Kohli, on the other hand, did not have any team issues. He cleared the air over Rohit Sharma emphatically. But, the way how the ODI captaincy was communicated showed the BCCI needs to ramp up its communication protocol.
The fact that Kohli and Ganguly digressed over what happened can mean only one thing. The BCCI might have issued an ultimatum that Kohli had to give India a series win against South Africa and also chip in with the bat. Failure to do that would result in a consequence and that is what seems to have happened.
Virat Kohli has 40 Test wins, which puts him in an elite list. Even as ODI and T20I captain, his records are staggering. But, it is the losses in Kohli’s captaincy that have been amplified immensely. The 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final, the 2019 ICC World Cup semi-final, 2021 ICC World T20 Group Exit have all stained his legacy. What will hurt India and Kohli is the lack of ICC trophies in his tenure. The World Test Championship loss to New Zealand was very disappointing considering that three days were washed out.
An average of under 30 in these two years, combined with the string of poor results at the summit clash has gone against Kohli. The miscommunication, No batting form, and the reversal of the South Africa series finally saw Kohli dropping the bomb.