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Should Kohli relinquish the India Captaincy?

Virat Kohli [Source: BCCI]

Virat Kohli [Source: BCCI]


The Bridge Desk

Published: 26 Oct 2021 12:44 PM GMT

Virat Kohli's form in Test cricket has caught the eye for the wrong reasons over the last two years. The 32-year-old was at the peak of his powers after conquering his personal demons against the moving ball in England in 2018, reaching the summit of the ICC World Rankings. However, his performances have become concerning as he failed to pass three figures in Test cricket since notching a century against Bangladesh in Kolkata in 2019.

Kohli struggled to reach his peak form on home soil against England, which followed issues against New Zealand and missing the majority of the Australia tour to attend the birth of his child. There is no doubt that Kohli at the top of his game is one of the best batsmen in the world, if not the best. Kane Williamson, Joe Root, and Steve Smith also have a strong claim, but Kohli excels in all formats of the game.

Smith had his pitfalls carrying the responsibility of leadership for Australia. Root also had problems juggling the captaincy while maintaining his own excellence at the crease. Only now has Root seemingly come to terms with the balancing act, thriving on his way back to the top of the ICC World Rankings after an exemplary 2021.

Williamson has managed the best of the lot, driving New Zealand to the first Test Championship crown, as reported by The Guardian by defeating Kohli and India. However, the pressure of captaining Australia, England, and India is a lot greater than that of the Black Caps. Under the constant gaze of the media and in challenging conditions outside of New Zealand, it would be interesting to see how Williamson would fare.

Kohli has had a great run as skipper but does he really need the additional responsibility when his performances alone could fire India to titles across the board?

Captain Kohli

Although Kohli is going through a tough spell at the moment, he still has an outstanding record as India captain and as a batsman in the role. He averages above 55 with over 20 Hundreds to his name since 2014. The 32-year-old has captained the side over 60 times with a strong win ratio of above 50%, which was a higher mark than his predecessor MS Dhoni.

Kohli also has impressive records with the T20 and ODI sides, although he is yet to guide his team to a white-ball trophy. India is the leading contender at 3.60 in the odds provided by Betway, as of September 1st, to win the World T20 on home soil.

However, the pressure will be on Kohli more than ever to produce the trophy that India has not lifted since 2007. Indeed, it has been highlighted that he has suffered since assuming captaincy in T20 cricket. Meanwhile, his exploits in the Indian Premier League as the leader of Royal Challengers Bangalore have not made a case for him to remain in the role.

If he is not leading by example with a bat in hand in all three formats, surely the BCCI must consider alternatives for the role. A Kohli at the peak of his powers is not only a joy to watch, but the best asset for India to have in their pursuit of trophies in Test, ODI, and T20 formats.


Ajinkya Rahane led India superbly in the absence of Kohli in Australia, defeating the Baggy Greens by a 2-1 margin. The one defeat came under Kohli's tenure at the start of the tour before Rahane and company led the fightback without their full-time skipper. Rahane was effective with his strategy throughout the four-match series, despite being without several key bowlers.

Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were all sidelined, but still, Rahane worked his magic and galvanized the team to produce their best to overcome Tim Paine's side. Rahane himself notched a vital century to turn the tide in the second Test, proving that he was not deterred by the responsibility of leadership. Alas, the 33-year-old would not be a long-term option and he has had issues with his own form in the past. But, Rahane could be the prime example of a player such as Andrew Strauss, who relished the role and brought out the best in his teammates around him.

On the other hand, the Times of India rightly highlights that Sharma has been a great success at Mumbai Indians in the IPL, winning the competition five times during his tenure as skipper. He appears to have all the attributes to take the pressure off Kohli in white-ball cricket to inherit the role, skippering in games of the greatest magnitude. Given the nature of ODI and T20 cricket, Sharma's batting should not be affected by the additional responsibility. He has a brash style that he would look to bring out the best of the outfit, allowing Kohli to settle in at number three in the batting order.

India has immense talent available on the T20 side, but they do require strong management. Sharma not only has the authority of his distinguished international career, but also the credential of being a regular IPL winner under his belt. The 34-year-old is the obvious choice and may get the opportunity to lead the team in the very near future.

No one is pushing Kohli out the door as captain, but if releasing the shackles allows him to thrive as a batsman once more, it will only benefit India across all three formats.

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