New Delhi: He was handed over the Test team captaincy much before he would have expected when Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to step down in the middle of a tough series against Australia during the 2014-15 tour. But Virat Kohli, already on his way to becoming a cricket legend, took to captaining the Indian Test and the limited-overs teams like a fish to water.
Virat Kohli’s first Test as a captain came in the first match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy during the same series in Australia when Dhoni was unable to take the field. But it was not a memorable outing for Team India as the Australians romped home by 48 runs as the tourists failed to chase the target of 364 runs.
Yet, one thing became very clear during that unsuccessful run chase. India under Virat Kohli were not going to play with a defensive mindset, in fact, prodded by the captain, the team would go all out for a win even if it meant that a loss would be waiting for them if things didn’t go as planned.
When Dhoni dropped a bombshell by announcing his decision to retire from Tests following the Melbourne match which India drew with Australia, Kohli was the natural choice for the team leader’s position. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) named him the Test skipper with the Sydney Test just a week away.
In the last seven years as India’s Test skipper, 33-year-old Kohli has written his name in the record books on several occasions. He is the most successful Indian Test captain with 40 wins out of 68, and is fourth on the list of all-time best skippers. The three ahead of him are South Africa’s Graeme Smith and the Australian pair of Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh.
From a poor traveller to a team whose loss overseas in Australia or England looked like an upset, Kohli ensured that his aggression rubbed off on to his team too.
Under his leadership, Team India remained the top ranked Test side for 42 months from October 2016 till early March 2020. He led India to a historic first-ever series win in Australia in 2018-19 by a margin of 2-1.
Proving that it was no fluke, the Kohli-led India once again mauled Australia Down Under in 2020-21 by the same margin of 2-1. Although Kohli had flown back to India for the birth of his daughter after the first Test at Adelaide which India lost and the team was led by Ajinkya Rahane, yet the Delhi batter’s imprint was all over the team. The aggression, fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude saw India bounce back to pocket the series with memorable wins at Melbourne and Brisbane.
England, too, faced his fury in the 2021 series with India leading the series 2-1 before the fifth match was postponed to 2022 following a Covid scare. Just before the England series, India also featured in the inaugural World Test Championship, but lost to New Zealand.
He also holds the record of leading India to four overseas wins in a calendar year and on both occasions they came on tours where India have traditionally ended on the losing side.
Under Kohli, India first achieved this feat in 2015 by defeating Australia in Brisbane, England at Lord’s and Oval followed by South Africa in Centurion. Three years later in 2018, he once again led the Men in Blue as they won against South Africa in Johannesburg, England in Nottingham and then defeated Australia in Adelaide as well as in Melbourne.
He is also the first India as well as the first Asian captain to lead his side to a Test win at Centurion, a fortress for South Africa where they have lost only three of the 27 they have played.
Kohli also has most Test wins by an Asian captain in South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia (SENA). He has led India to seven wins in SENA countries out of the 23 matches with 13 loses and 3 draws.
He is the only Asian captain to win two Boxing Day matches – one in Australia and another in South Africa.
Under Kohli, India played 68 Tests, winning 40 out of which 16 were overseas. The team lost only 17 and drew 11 other Tests. Dhoni is a distant second with 27 victories in 60 Tests whereas Sourav Ganguly led India in 49 matches but could register a win in only 21.
As a batter, too, Kohli was at his best when leading the side. He has scored seven double-centuries in Tests as well as has 20 centuries (another record) as India captain.
Kohli started his Test captaincy with a win in Australia in December 2014 but the curtains came down after his team lost to South Africa in Cape Town, a match which also made news for Kohli expletive-laden outburst following a DRS review by his then South African counterpart Dean Elgar.
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