Ponting, one of the most successful captains ever, hailed Kohli for his leadership skills, saying that under him India had improved its overseas record by winnings more Tests abroad than before.
He also backed Rohit Sharma to do well as Kohli’s successor.
“Yes, it did actually (surprise me)…I was shocked… Probably the main reason why I had a chat and good catch-up with Virat during the first part of the IPL (2021) before it got postponed,” Ponting said in the first episode of ‘The ICC Review’.
“He was talking then about stepping away (from captaincy) from white-ball cricket and how passionate he was to continue on to be Test match captain. He just loved and cherished that job and that post so much. When I heard it, I was really, really surprised.”
But upon reflection of his own experience as captain, Ponting felt Kohli must have weighed in many factors before his decision.
Virat Kohli. (Photo by Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
“There is potentially a shelf-life for international cricket captains and even coaches. Virat’s been there for close to seven years now. If there’s a country in the world that’s the most difficult to captain, it’s probably India because of just how popular the game is and how much every single Indian loves to see the fortunes of the team.
“He is 33 years of age now and he will want to continue playing for a few more years I am sure and have a crack at breaking some records that he is not far off breaking.
“Maybe if he does that as a batter and without the extra responsibility of captaincy, it might make it a bit easier for him,” Ponting said.
The legendary batter lauded the efforts of the Indian team under Kohli, even going so far as to say the team’s efforts were more “staggering” than that of Australia under his captaincy.
“It was more of a staggering achievement for India than it was for us. When I took over, I took over a side that had dominated world cricket for a long time.
“If you think about India before Virat, it was about winning a lot of games at home and not winning quite as many overseas. The thing that improved most was India winning a few more games overseas…”
“There was a real focus placed on Test cricket by BCCI when Virat took over, and I think a lot of it has come from him as well – to focus more on Test cricket and winning more games home and away.”
Rohit Sharma. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Ponting said given his Test record as captain, Kohli can walk away from the role very proud of what he has achieved.
No other Indian skipper has captained India in more Tests (68) or won more matches (40) than Kohli. India lost just five of the 24 series under his captaincy.
At home, India didn’t lose a single series with Kohli as captain. In fact, they lost just two out of 31 matches.
Away from home, Kohli’s India won 16 out of 36 matches, with an impressive win percentage of 44.44, the highest for an Indian or Asian captain who has led their team in at least 10 matches.
Ponting rated India’s 2-1 triumph in the 2018-19 Border-Gavaskar as Kohli’s greatest series win as captain. It was that series victory that broke India’s jinx — it was their first Test series win in Australia.
Ponting backed his former Mumbai Indians team-mate Rohit to fill Kohli’s shoes. He said it was him who suggested Rohit to lead Mumbai Indians when he had to step down from that role after indifferent form in 2013.
“The proof is in the pudding with what he has done at Mumbai Indians. He has been a very successful leader there and has been when he has led India on a few occasions as well.”