24 hours before tweeting, Virat Kohli had informed team that he was stepping down

Virat Kohli resigns as Test captain: Hours after India’s Test series loss against South Africa on Friday, Virat Kohli had ended the post-match team meeting at the Newlands dressing room with an announcement and a request. To the surprise of those in the dressing room, Kohi said that he had decided to step down as India’s Test captain. In the same breadth he asked his teammates and the support staff to keep the news to themselves. Those at the meeting said the captain said “I ask a small favour, please don’t share with anybody outside the dressing room”.

About 24 hours later, on Saturday evening, like so often in the past, Kohli broke the news on social media. “Everything has to come to a halt at some stage and for me as Test captain of India, it’s now.”

This marked the end of Kohli’s journey as a skipper, as he had earlier relinquished T20I captaincy followed by the selectors’ decision to remove him from ODI leadership.

“It’s been 7 years of hard work, toil and relentless perseverance everyday to take the team in the right direction. I’ve done the job with absolute honesty and left nothing out there. Everything has to come to a halt at some stage and for me as Test Captain of India, it’s now,” Kohli wrote in his Twitter post.

At the post-match press conference, after India’s series defeat in Cape Town on Friday, Kohli looked unusually downbeat. The wind of change was bowling in Indian cricket, with Rohit Sharma’s appointment as white-ball captain and his promotion to Test vice-captaincy. Before going to South Africa, Kohli had taken on the BCCI, openly contradicting Board president Sourav Ganguly on captaincy issue. Later, chief selector Chetan Sharma appeared before the press and corroborated Ganguly’s version. Following Ravi Shastri’s departure as the Indian team head coach, Kohli also had lost his biggest backer in the dressing-room.

His form, too, became a topic of debate of late and although he scored a brilliant 79 in the first innings of the third Test against the Proteas at Newlands, he has now gone 30 international innings without a century. But unlike his statement in September last year, when he spoke about giving up T20I captaincy to manage his workload, Kohli’s post on Saturday didn’t touch upon any cricketing issues.

“There have been many ups and also some downs along the journey, but never has there been a lack of effort or lack of belief. I have always believed in giving my 120 percent in everything I do, and if I can’t do that, I know it’s not the right thing to do. I have absolute clarity in my heart and I cannot be dishonest to my team,” he wrote.

When Kohli took full-time charge of the Test team, in Australia in 2014-15 after MS Dhoni’s shock decision to call it quits mid-series, India were languishing seventh in the ICC rankings. From there to taking the team to No. 1 in the world rankings and staying there for five years had been a spectacular turnaround. Overhauling the fitness culture and forming a four-pronged pace attack, capable of taking 20 wickets in any conditions, would be his biggest legacies as India captain. The 33-year-old led India in 68 games won 40, becoming the country’s most successful Test captain in the process. He presided over India’s first-ever Test series win in Australia and led the team to a 2-1 lead in England last summer, before the fifth Test was postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the Indian camp.

When Kohli took full-time charge of the Test team, in Australia in 2014-15 after MS Dhoni’s shock decision to call it quits mid-series, India were languishing seventh in the ICC rankings. (File)

Controversies followed him until his last Test as captain, when South African skipper Dean Elgar’s DRS reprieve prompted Kohli to take his frustration to the stump microphone. He was criticised for his on-field behaviour, but Kohli was always like that, leading with passion, taking the aggression to the opponents and wearing his heart on his sleeve.

As captain, he fell out with Anil Kumble when the latter was the head coach. Shastri was brought back upon his insistence and together they wrote a golden chapter in Indian cricket. Little wonder then that Kohli’s post had a special mention for Shastri.

“To Ravi Bhai and the support group who were the engine behind this vehicle that move us upwards in Test Cricket consistently, you all have played a massive role in bringing this vision to life,” he wrote.

Kohli offered his heartfelt thanks to Dhoni also. “Lastly, a big thank you to MS Dhoni who believed in me as a Captain and found me to be an able individual who could take Indian Cricket forward.”

Test captaincy came to him almost without notice. His stepping down, too, was sudden. Did he keep the BCCI in the loop? A WhatsApp message to Ganguly, asking if there was a conversation, was left unanswered. Kohli in his statement thanked the cricket board. “I want to thank the BCCI for giving me the opportunity t lead my country for such a long period of time and more importantly to all the teammates who bought into the vision I had for the team from day one and never gave up in any situation. You guys have made this journey s memorable and beautiful.”

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