Virat Kohli on Thursday announced that he would step down as India’s T20I captain after the T20 World Cup that commences in the United Arab Emirates on October 17.
Like his mentor MS Dhoni’s retirement post on social media last year, Kohli also chose a social media platform to make the announcement, paving the way for split captaincy in Indian cricket.
Kohli’s statement mentioned Rohit Sharma as “an essential part of the leadership group”, all but anointing the latter as his successor in the shortest format.
“Understanding workload is a very important thing and considering my immense workload over the last 8-9 years playing all 3 formats and captaining regularly for last 5-6 years, I feel I need to give myself space to be fully ready to lead the Indian team in Test and ODI cricket,” Kohli wrote in his Instagram post.
He added: “I have given my everything to the Team during my time as T20 Captain and I will continue to do so for the T20 Team as a batsman moving forward.”
Kohli, 32, of late hasn’t been at his peak as a batsman in Tests, a format which he adores. For close to two years now, Kohli hasn’t scored a long-form century and made 563 runs at 26.80 in 12 Tests during this period. Still, calling time on his T20I captaincy, as he said, was a tough decision.
“Of course, arriving at this decision took a lot of time. After a lot of contemplation and discussions with my close people, Ravi bhai (Shastri) and also Rohit, who have been an essential part of the leadership group, I’ve decided to step down as the T20 Captain after this T20 World Cup in Dubai in October,” Kohli said.
He took over the limited-overs reins from Dhoni in January 2017 and led India to T20I series wins against every major cricket-playing nation. But Kohli’s failure to win an ICC event has been putting pressure on him, going into the upcoming T20 World Cup.
India lost to Pakistan in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy followed by the semifinal heartbreak against New Zealand at the 2019 (50-over) World Cup. In the World Test Championship final in June this year, India again lost to New Zealand.
Kohli’s failure to lead Royal Challengers Bangalore to the Indian Premier League (IPL) title was held against him as well by his critics, with Rohit setting a T20 captaincy benchmark through five title-winning campaigns for Mumbai Indians.
From that perspective, Kohli’s decision ahead of the T20 World Cup will allow him to play without the additional weight of expectations.
The BCCI’s concern at India’s failures at ICC events was reflected in Dhoni’s appointment as the team mentor for the T20 World Cup. This was done with an eye on the former captain’s proven pedigree of winning global tournaments – T20 World Cup, 50-over World Cup, and Champions Trophy. In certain quarters, though, this was seen as a message to the incumbent, that Kohli’s limited-overs leadership needs Dhoni’s tactical nous to achieve the desired result.
Asked about the captaincy issue a few days ago, BCCI secretary Jay Shah told The Indian Express that it would be performance-oriented.
“As long as a team is performing, the question of change in captaincy doesn’t arise,” he had said.
In his statement, Kohli spoke about conversing with Shah and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly before taking the decision. Following the announcement, the BCCI secretary mentioned about the roadmap, and that this has been part of discussion for the last six months.
“We have a clear roadmap for Team India. Considering the workloads and ensuring that we have a smooth transition, Mr Virat Kohli has decided to step down as T20I Captain after the upcoming World Cup. I have been in discussions with Virat and the leadership team for the last six months and the decision has been thought through. Virat will continue to contribute as a player and as a senior member of the side in shaping the future course of Indian cricket,” Shah said via a press release.
Ganguly dittoed. “He (Kohli) is one of the most successful captains in all the formats. The decision has been made keeping in mind the future roadmap.”
When Kohli took over as Test captain after Dhoni retired mid-series in Australia in December 2014, India were reeling at seventh in the ICC rankings. He gave the team its aggressive and pace identity, helping India climb up the ladder and stay on top for a substantial period.
In limited-overs cricket, however, Kohli was always judged against Dhoni’s global silverware and Rohit’s IPL success.