Virat Kohli, without an ounce of doubt, has to be one of those most controversial figures to have set foot on the Cricket field. He is a divisive figure who established himself in the pantheon of the Cricketing God’s very early on in his career. He is a legend, no doubt, with 75 centuries (70+5 in the IPL) in his bag, over all three formats of the game, the perfect example of what sheer grit and determination in the face of adversity can do for an individual. He rose through challenges, slayed many beasts, he is a titan, a gladiator performing in the amphitheater of cricket. But he is a human, after all, marred by human imperfections. On more than one occasion, he did give in to bouts of emotions on the cricket field. He is an animated figure, who is prone to picking up fights, and controversial as that may sound, the Australian cricketers and fans alike loved to say, “Virat has an Australian in him.” So, you could argue that he was hitting back at them. And as an Indian Cricket fan, it felt good.

He has an unparalleled record as the Captain of the Indian Cricket team. He won 40 out of the 68 test matches he played in as a captain, a win percentage of 58.82%. . Just to put that figure into perspective the captain before him, MS Dhoni, who is a legend in the cricketing circuit because of his ability to read the game unlike any other, won 28 out of the 60 test matches he captained in, with a win percentage of 46.66%. The One Day International record stands no different. Captain Kohli and Co. Won 65 out of the 95 matches he captained in, with yet another impressive win percentage of 70.43%.

The question then arises, why was such a towering figure handed the short end of the stick by the BCCI and in a very unbecoming and unceremonious fashion stripped down of the ODI captaincy? A short while after having to give up the ODI captaincy, he also gave up the Test captaincy, and there has been speculation all over the cricketing world over the timing of this decision. He is only 33 and he had matured as a captain, mellowed down, and could have easily held the position for another three to four years. The devil is in the details. The silent footfalls of the doom were upon him for a very long time, and it was the South Africa 2-1 test series defeat, which really exposed the cracks and the blemishes in the supposed strong and unwavering character of Virat Kohli.

The hunt for the 71st continues

Leather against willow, defiant glare in his eyes, the stride of a champion, an exquisite cover-drive, and an insatiable hunger for runs, Virat Kohli was an anomaly, a parable, and an enigma for the cricketing world from 2014-2019. He piled up an insane amount of runs over the five-year period across all three formats. His ODI average from 2014- 2019 was 65.40, test average was 58.30 and T20 average stood at 61.00. There are superhuman statistics. But that is where the narrative takes a dramatic turn because all of these averages have suffered a constant decline after 2019. Virat scored his last century on 22nd November 2019 against Bangladesh in a Pink Ball test match in Eden Gardens, Kolkata. His and the fan’s hunt for Virat’s 71st century has been on ever since. Kohli hasn’t been able to score a century since that fateful day and this had led to critics conjecturing that the captaincy across all formats has been too heavy of a burden for him. 

“Tendulkar was an Isle amidst the storm. And Virat Kohli is the storm.” -Harsha Bhogle

Another Behemoth of the cricketing world, and a flag bearer for the Indian Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar was faced with a similar twisted situation. What did he do? Well, he gave up the captaincy to focus on his batting and that did wonders for him. So, there is a good amount of evidence and precedence in the form of Sachin, in favor of this speculation of Virat leaving captaincy to focus on his batting.

The series Defeat against South Africa

India lost an away series 2-1 to a South African team, which is going through a transition phase, where the team is looking to restructure itself and find new and suitable combinations. Teams going through transition are usually considered vulnerable, and so it was the right time for Virat and Co. to get their hands on a much-awaited test series win in South Africa. India to everyone’s surprise lost the test series. But what was even more surprising was Kohli’s conduct on the 4th day of the Cape Town Test match. Cricket is a Gentleman’s game and there is a certain decorum that should be maintained while playing it. Kohli’s fault? In that moment, perhaps one of his weakest, he started accusing the South African broadcasters of cheating, when a DRS decision went in South Africa’s favour. And what needs to be understood very clearly is that no player is bigger than the game. Virat Kohli despite all his achievements and accolades still serves the game and he should have acted in a way that is befitting of an Indian Captain. 

“We should all thank Virat Kohli and the BCCI for pushing test cricket because it’s the number one format.” - Shane Warne

Virat Kohli’s legacy as a captain will be a memorable one. Under him, India flourished, stayed at the very top of Test Cricket for 5 years, and managed to achieve some remarkable feats. He fostered a fierce bowling ecosystem and introduced the concept of fitness in the Indian team which helped India win overseas tests in England, Australia, and the West Indies. But what will always trouble him and the fans about his reign as the captain is the dearth of ICC trophies under his captaincy. His captaincy ended, it would be fair to assume, “not with a bang but a whimper”. But is it the end of the line for Virat? Virat Kohli the captain has served his due, now it's time for Virat Kohli the batsman to get his hands onto the steering wheel and take charge of the Indian batting line-up as a frontline batsman.

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