'Can't be dishonest to my team': Virat Kohli steps down as India's Test captain
Kohli's decision to leave Test captaincy comes a day after India lost the three-match Test series against South Africa on Friday.
CHENNAI: VOID. Less than a year after what is arguably the highest point in their Test history, Indian cricket is finding itself at crossroads. The captain, who sowed the seeds to play a fearless, aggressive brand of cricket, one who prioritised Test cricket over anything else, and one who guided the team to the most wins in whites, has had enough.
Virat Kohli, the former India captain, sounds totally out of place. Yet, it is the reality. Kohli has chosen to step aside as captain of the Test team – four months after quitting T20I captaincy and 38 days after BCCI removed him as ODI captain – with immediate effect.
“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 percent 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,” Kohli tweeted.
From the outside, it looks every bit a surprising decision, one which most didn’t see coming. The timing of the decision caught the BCCI officials surprised, but to say they were not expecting it too would be a massive understatement.
Ever since the England tour where a couple of senior players sent an SOS to BCCI top brass expressing reservation over Kohli’s captaincy, the 33-year-old has been on borrowed time. The captaincy switch in ODIs only contributed.
With Kohli, it was always said you received what you gave. And if one goes by how the BCCI turned its back on Kohli with regards to ODI captaincy, he has done the same now. It is understood that soon after Kohli revealed his intentions in the dressing room on Friday, attempts were made to keep him going till the Sri Lanka series. But, the 33-year-old is understood to have been firm on his decision.
Those in the know reveal, off late Kohli has been operating with his hands tied, clear signs of him not enjoying the full backing of the BCCI, which all Indian captains have enjoyed. In these circumstances, it is understood that Kohli, too, felt the time was right for him to step aside as it would allow him to concentrate on his batting alone.
While the decision could provide him a much needed fillip to find a second wind in his batting, Kohli, the captain, will be hard to replace. Unlike in limited-overs — where the selectors had a ready-made candidate in Rohit Sharma to take over as captain — there is nobody in Tests. While Rohit appears the best bet, there are concerns over his fitness and unless his workload is managed properly, it would be impossible for him to lead across all formats.
If the BCCI decides to split the captaincy, then there are talks of KL Rahul being considered for the Test captaincy role. But he is yet to establish himself fully in the Test team, and though it is still early days, his captaincy in Johannesburg wasn’t inspiring. With Ajinkya Rahane removed as vice-captain and his very place in the squad in question, going back to him would be seen as a backward step.
In the limited-overs, the decision to appoint Rohit was seen as a short-term option. Similarly, they might seek one in Tests too until the current cycle of the World Test Championship finishes.
India are lined up to play Sri Lanka, Australia and Bangladesh over the next 16 months. With that being the case, they can even look at someone like R Ashwin, who would be a regular in these parts and allow someone like Rahul or Rishabh Pant to grow into the role.