In his stint as India’s Test captain, Virat Kohli has an envious track record. In the 68 outings, he led the team to 40 wins and 11 draws. While the winning percentage remained 58.82, India suffered just 17 defeats in his tenure – the recent being the third and final Test against South Africa.
And former India international Irfan Pathan considers him the ‘best Test captain’ and is surprised by Kohli’s decision to step down from the role.
“In terms of performances and percentage, Virat is the best captain. He changed the face of India’s Test cricket team and he will forever be remembered for his incredible feats as the skipper, there’s no doubt about it. But I feel he should have continued for a while because he has lot more to offer,” Pathan told Sportstar on Saturday.
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“But having said that, a lot was happening over the last few months, most of which we are not aware of. We don’t know what he is going through or what his perspective is. I really hope that Virat continues to contribute to Indian cricket in years to come as well. But I would have personally wanted him to continue as the captain in Test cricket because he has got that energy,” Pathan added.
In December last year, Kohli was removed as the ODI captain and before flying out to South Africa, he stirred a controversy by claiming that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) officials did not tell him not to step down as the T20I captain – contrary to the statements given by the Board president Sourav Ganguly.
While BCCI officials remained tight-lipped on the matter, the chairman of the national selection committee, Chetan Sharma, stated that Kohli was indeed asked not to step down as the T20I captain just a month and a half before the T20 World Cup 2021.
“In terms of pressure, he has handled it well throughout his whole career. There is nothing which he can’t handle. I think he wanted to take a decision and clear things. Virat has a huge influence on Indian cricket as well as on the players. Even in the South Africa tour, he did his part as a leader. Over the years, Virat has contributed a lot in terms of changing the perception of India’s Test teams,” Pathan said.
With Kohli stepping down, India is set to get a new captain for red-ball cricket and Pathan believes that it is important to hand over the responsibility to Rohit Sharma for now.
“Rohit is the only guy at the moment who can captain Indian team now for at least a couple of years, depending on his fitness. In the longer run, there has to be a leadership group with at least a couple of players who should be groomed. Along with KL Rahul, you need to add one more guy, who the selectors need to pick. That will have long-term benefits for Indian cricket,” Pathan said.
Former India international and erstwhile national selector Ashok Malhotra also believes that Kohli could have carried on as the captain for a few more Tests.
“We are surprised by his decision. After he was removed as the ODI captain, he did not like it. I think, he knew that things are not hunky dory for him because of the way he reacted to Board president’s statements. I don’t know what happened or what it is, but he is one of the most successful captains and a phenomenal player. Personally, I feel that he jumped before he was pushed,” Malhotra said.
“He could have continued for a few more Test series but he might have seen that he could be removed, so he took the decision. With this, he has put all controversies to rest. It is a start of a new era and I think he took a leaf out of Mahendra Singh’s book.”
Having seen Indian cricket from close quarters, Malhotra believes that for now, the selectors should hand over the Test captaincy to Rohit.
“KL Rahul still has to earn his stripes in Test cricket. I am sure he will learn as he goes around, but for now, ready-made choice as the Test captain will be Rohit,” Malhotra, who is the chief of Indian Cricketers’ Association, said.
With Kohli stepping down, it is certainly an end of an era.