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Virat Kohli - India's finest leader in Test whites

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Last updated on 15 Jan 2022 | 08:43 PM
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Virat Kohli - India's finest leader in Test whites

Here's a look back at Virat Kohli reign as India's most successful Test captain

Seven years. 68 Tests. 40 wins, 11 draws and a win percentage of 58.82. Virat Kohli's numbers as India's Test captain are staggering on many levels. The outstanding aspect of his captaincy is the manner in which India went from flat-track bullies to fearsome travelers. Former Test opener Wasim Jaffer perfectly summed up Kohli's era when he tweeted: "When Virat took over as Test captain, India winning a test overseas was an achievement, now if India lose an overseas test series it is an upset. And that's how far he has taken Indian cricket forward, and that will be his legacy. Congratulations on successful reign."

With the Delhi-born batter deciding to step down from his role, we take a look at the dizzying heights India scaled under his leadership, in no particular order.

Present in spirit

Here's the odd one out. Considered as the greatest Test comebacks of all-time, Kohli was not exactly present when India went from being all out 36 in the first Test at Adelaide to winning the series despite the long list of injuries to the regulars. Five debutants stepped up to the task while seniors played their part. Ajinkya Rahane stood in for Kohli, led brilliantly with a hundred, as India won at Melbourne. R Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari saved the Sydney Test batting on a single leg each. Rishabh Pant finally exulted after guiding India to a near impossible victory at Gabba where Australia were unbeaten for 32 long years. Kohli was rejoicing back at home, taking care of his newborn child. Even though he had to leave the series after the first Test, it was a team forged in Kohli's vision that showed unfathomable determination and resilience never seen from a visiting side.

Conquering Australia

India had played many series in Australia over the decades and most of the times the result was an overwhelming defeat or a plain drubbing. The last time India came close was the 2003/04 series which ended in a 1-1 draw. Under Virat Kohli's leadership India played with authority from the first Test onwards. Cheteshwar Pujara set up the first game nicely with a century and half century while India's bowlers hunted in a pack to win it by 31 runs. 

Australia hit back hard in the second Test at Perth, winning by 146 runs despite Mohammad Shami's second innings heroics. But Pujara rose to the occasion once again in the third Test at Melbourne, scoring another fine hundred while Jasprit Bumrah's six-wicket haul gave India a huge advantage. The second Test loss felt like a blip when the Indians took the lead back in the series and almost won it by 3-1 in Sydney but a draw would suffice in the final Test. Kohli lifted Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia for the first time ever by an Indian captain and even special was the contribution from every individual in the squad.

Dominance at home

Being great tourists never meant Kohli's teams lost ground at home. Under the Delhi lad's leadership, India played 10 series at home and never lost. They broke new ground in 2019 when they decimated a strong South African team by 3-0. After thumping the visitors by 203 runs in the first Test at Visakhapatnam, they sealed the series by winning the Pune Test by an innings 137 runs to become the first team to win 11 home series in a row. Australia had won ten series at home between 1994/95-2000/01 and 2004-2008/09. But Kohli's men went one better and are yet to lose at home since 2012.

Inaugural World Test Championship

Kohli built his reputation as one of the finest chasers in limited-overs, but had always held the longest format close to his heart. The inaugural World Test Championship from 2019-21 was the biggest platform for him and boy did his team deliver. They won 12 of the 17 Tests they played in that cycle, three more than eventual champions New Zealand who had played six of their 11 matches at home. India were superior by winning series in West Indies and Australia, two countries where pitches were minefields with conditions that pushed the physical and psychological boundaries of the players. India lost a rain-hit final at Southampton, but it was clear that they had learned to adapt and excel in the most hostile conditions.

Bullying England at home

India had previously won Test series in England, but seldom where those dominant affairs. The overcast skies and swinging ball demanded great skillsets and determination from touring sides. India looked at home, more so than the hosts themselves, as they set out to annex the English conditions one by one. After England nervously drew the first Test in Nottingham, Kohli's men unleashed their ruthless side at Lord's. 

Everybody contributed with the bat, while Mohammad Siraj spit fire in both innings with two four-wicket hauls. As they set out to defend 271 on the final day, Kohli rallied his men by telling that "every moment on the pitch should feel like hell to them" and by the end of it, England did. The home side responded brilliantly with an innings and 76 runs win at Leeds, but India landed the counter punch at the Oval as they won by 157 runs. The series result remained inconclusive after the fifth Test was cancelled due to covid-19 outbreak, but Kohli's men had proved to England what their skipper had told James Anderson at Lord's - "This isn’t your backyard!"

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