Kohli ~ is his legacy the incredible numbers or the emotions he has evoked in us?
Since the day he first captained Team India in Test cricket on 9th December 2014 against the mighty Australians in Adelaide, Kohli has achieved many firsts, tumbled various records and statistically has accomplished the title of being the best captain that has ever led the nation in the purest form of the game.
But it’s not the numbers that make him the enigma that he is but the emotions ~ the ones he wears on his sleeves both on & off the field and the ones he evokes in his fans and amongst his harshest critics.
In any debate about him, you would find polarised camps ~ one that would classify him as arrogant, egotistic, brash, rude, immature and offensive even and one that adulates his aggresive brand of cricket, the chest-thumping body language, his intent to always play to win, his strict fitness & diet regime he switched to & sweared by since 2011, his grooming, including his oft-emulated beard and tattoos, his commercial and social media acumen, his polished vocabulary as well as his choice of words and gestures to give opponents a piece of his mind and heart.
Irrespective of where you lay or oscillated on that ‘Kohli love-hate’ continuum, as fans of Test cricket and especially if you support the Indian unit, chances are you will remember his legacy with memories from venues such as Adelaide, Melbourne, Kingston, North Sound, Colombo (SSC & PSS), Galle, Gros Islet, Pallekele, Nottingham, Lords, Oval, Johannesburg and recently Centurion.
16 overseas wins (53%) out of the 36 matches he led the country in during his 7 year reign.
4 overseas Test wins in a calendar year ~ make that twice, including the rare feat of being the only Asian captain to win 2 Boxing Day Tests.
He personally scored 1,254 runs in these overseas wins at 44.58 with 3 centuries and 7 crucial half centuries.
The audacity of getting the Australian team to follow-on at the SCG in Jan 2019 ~ just the 2nd time an Indian captain had ever done so since Kapil Dev in 1986.
At home, Kohli had perfected the art of defending his home turf with a win record of 75% and not allowing any side to win a series during his tenure.
And on home conditions, he imposed himself even more with his bat with 4,610 runs, including. 17 centuries and 11 half centuries.
Along with his chirpy expletives and arrogant gestures, he lead from the front with his batting, catching, fielding and aggressive captaincy tactics.
Along with Shastri, Bharat Arun & Sridhar, his ability to back and utilize our 5 key pacers in Shami, Bumrah, Ishant, Umesh & Siraj will remain another key cornerstone of his achievement.
He kept this brand of leadership alive through his desire to constantly improve and learn from his mistakes, which was evident in the way he changed his batting style and approach to slip catching in England after some discouraging failures.
To me, his biggest impact will be this unsatiable hunger, belief and desire to learn, unlearn, sacrifice, improve and to go out there to compete hard and play to win.
Admittedly, his ways have been brash, egotistic and arrogant at times, but the flip side of that coin is that, it’s that same attitude that has helped the team stand up and stamp it’s authority both on and off the field on many an occasion.
Personally, I felt that he could have easily carried on as our Test captain for another 3–4 years and in the process would have easily surpassed Steve Waugh, Ponting & Graeme Smith in terms of being the captain with the most number of Test wins, but am sure the physical and mental load of handling the immense pressure that comes with this role, the ongoing political saga with the BCCI, the relative slump in his batting form apart from managing his family must be weighing heavily on his mind.
Only he would have known when is the best time to move on and perhaps he felt it is best to call it quits whilst he is still at his peak in terms of his captaincy?
As the Kohli era comes to an, beyond his obvious flaws, I hope every fan of Test & Indian cricket will remember this legend and emulate his passion, hunger, determination, intent, focus and strive for dominance & excellence in everything.
He has definitely left Test cricket much richer than when he had taken on the mantle 7 years ago.