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Virat Kohli: The Captaincy Breakdown

cricketsavant

U19 12th Man
Time calls on every captain, no matter how successful, no matter how much of a superstar and no matter how many instagram followers one may have, time remains undefeated. For Virat Kohli it has been 2599 days of captaincy, 7 + years, 68 test matches, that is a lot of time. During that near decade, the Indian team has been surrounded by myth and legend, by hyperbole, courted and despised in equal measure by their captain, so it is about time we break through the hyperbole and take a dive into just how good of a captain Virat Kohli truly was.

First off, let's look at Kohli the batsman in that time period - 68 matches, averaging 54 with 20 centuries and 18 half centuries, with a high score of 254*. These are not just great numbers, these are career high numbers. Kohli batted at his absolute peak as a captain, playing some of the best test innings of the 2010s. Who can forget his back-to-back test hundreds while debuting as captain. Apart from the contribution of Murali Vijay, Kohli was the lone ranger against a Nathan Lyon who was bowling absolute cobras on a dusty Adelaide pitch. It was a sign of things to come. There was the exceptional half century in the first innings of the final test of the 2018 tour of South Africa, just enough to keep India in the game, a match they would go on to win. This was the culmination of a series of centuries and double centuries against England, New Zealand and the West Indies in the years prior. Kohli did not just get big runs but crucial runs (an accusation often labeled against Tendulkar was that he got "soft" runs). There were serious discussions on whether or not Kohli was the greatest ever Indian batsman.

All this, and Kohli also captained India in 145 limited overs games, averaging a whopping 73 in ODIs and striking at almost a 100. Whatever the debate may have been about test cricket, Kohli was certainly being labeled as the greatest ever limited overs batsman, and why not? He had all the batting shots one could dream of. This however, is where the first albatross can be found - not a single ICC tournament trophy under the Kohli reign. During this time, India was consistently regarded as the best limited overs team on the planet, often discussed as the best ever, with a heavyweight batting unit and a smart, ever improving bowling unit, bolstered for the first time ever with a spearheading quick. Yet, time and time again they faltered, first in the Asia Cup, then in the Champion's Trophy with a humiliating and record setting defeat in the final and ultimately in the 50 over Cricket World Cup and the later T20 edition.

There were suggestions that Kohli's aggressive on field persona was not backed up behind the scenes and that if a team got a hold of the game, it was difficult for him and by extension his players to get back in the game. Accusations of arrogance and ineptitude were made often, those same accusations which has been pointed at Dhoni's increasingly defensive ODI captaincy, something which Kohli clearly adopted. At times he looked clueless captaining in crunch tournament games. That never really changed. Of course, wins and losses are never solely down to the captain but he is a barometer of what is happening on the field and Kohli cut an erratic figure, unsure of who he was, prominent macho man or meek, hugging smiling, loser.

The same could be said of Kohli the test captain, yet he was buoyed by winning more often than not, including two wins down under (the second id not have Kohli as captain or player, but he was largely the team he had built) and an almost test win in England. These have often been regarded as the barometer for Indian greatness, and obviously Kohli scores highly here. It is important to note the quality of opposition however, and against a slightly better than current England side, India lost emphatically once before under Kohli, ditto Australia. There is also the New Zealand series to contend with and ultimately the meek succumbing in the WTC final. India was said to have the better team, stands outs who were all time greats yet they lost when it mattered most...again.

The numbers are also intriguing, Kohli has captained in 68 test matches and yet only 16 of those have resulted in away wins...yes, including Asia. Minus the lower ranked test sides of SL and WI, and the wins drop to a measely 7 test matches and one away test win (Australia 2018). This however hsould not discount fortress India, which had been breached by England under Dhoni's watch, had yet to be breached under Kohli's guard. India became, under his astute understanding of the Indian game and pitches, an unstoppable team at home, one of the best ever home sides but there's a reason even the Indian fandom promotes away test victories, because they matter that much more. It is what made Lloyd, Khan and Waugh so special. Kohli it seems is a captain bred for the modern internet age, all numbers but the sunbstance does not always match.

Kohli has been a great batsman, maybe he will again but he was not a great captain. A very good one, top three or five in India's pantheon but not as ground breaking as say, a Ganguly. He falls far short of the standards set by Lloyd, Khan, Jardine, Waugh or Smith. Kohli's own legacy of building a brash, aggressive team has not settled well, when that brashness turns to indignation at every lost opportunity. It's like the Mourinho syndrome, and much like that other stalwart of different game, Kohli was never quite there.
 

TheJediBrah

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
You haven't exposed anyone here except yourself. 16 away victories, when was that a low benchmark btw ?
9 of them against SL and WI though

It's not ATG buy an stretch but not that bad either. Plenty of captains with worse.

Steve Smith had 5 away Test wins as captain out of 14 (1 v Bangladesh)
Kane Williamson has won just 3 games as captain away out of 12 and all v minnows (2 x Zim,1 x SL)

unless I'm statsguruing wrong KW hasn't won a single away Test as captain against a top 6 side
 

srbhkshk

International Vice-Captain
9 of them against SL and WI though

It's not ATG buy an stretch but not that bad either. Plenty of captains with worse.

Steve Smith had 5 away Test wins as captain out of 14 (1 v Bangladesh)
Kane Williamson has won just 3 games as captain away out of 12 and all v minnows (2 x Zim,1 x SL)

unless I'm statsguruing wrong KW hasn't won a single away Test as captain against a top 6 side

Here's something better - the supposed special Captain Khan (presumably Imran Khan) who Kohli was unfortunately not able to match has a grand total of 5 away test victories, 1 of them being against SL.
 

Spark

Global Moderator
They really have to add a statsguru category that folds in "away" and "neutral", especially during the UAE era. Does my head in.
 

h_hurricane

International Regular
9 of them against SL and WI though

It's not ATG buy an stretch but not that bad either. Plenty of captains with worse.

Steve Smith had 5 away Test wins as captain out of 14 (1 v Bangladesh)
Kane Williamson has won just 3 games as captain away out of 12 and all v minnows (2 x Zim,1 x SL)

unless I'm statsguruing wrong KW hasn't won a single away Test as captain against a top 6 side
Yeah, aware of that. Was responding to his post on "only 16 away victories". Even if mediocrity of some of the opposition is considered, what was he expecting ? 20-25 away victories ? :laugh:
 

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