'Had he continued, lot of people wouldn't have digested his success': Shastri opens up on Kohli giving up Test captaincy
Virat Kohli's Test captaincy sojourn witnessed a bittersweet end last month. The mercurial player brought an end to his seven-year tenure as the red-ball leader, just a day after India's Test series defeat in South Africa. He had giant shoes to fill in, with his predecessor MS Dhoni leading India to two World Cup titles, but Kohli went on to carve his own niche.
Under Kohli, the Indian Test team rose to the top of the world rankings and notched its maiden series win in Australia in 2019. He signed off with 40 wins and 17 losses in 68 Tests as captain -- the best percentage of any Indian skipper.
Former India head coach Ravi Shastri underlined Kohli's achievement as the Test leader, stating that he could have continued at the position for at least two more years. Shastri, who had a fruitful coaching stint with the Indian team, also mentioned that Kohli could have ended up with 50-60 wins as captain in the longest format of the game.
"Whether Virat could have continued to lead India in Tests. For sure, he could have led India for at least 2 years because next two years India would be playing at home and who is coming over - 9 and 10 jacks, going by the rankings. But he would have then made it to 50-60 wins under his captaincy and a lot of people will not be able to digest that fact," said Shastri in a chat with India Today.
"Two years, he could have carried on but we should respect his decision. In any other country, this kind of record is incredible. You won against Australia, England and lost 1-2 to South Africa but still, there are debates if he should be the captain or not," he added.
The 'Shastri-Kohli' era came to an end after India's group-stage exit from the T20 World Cup 2021. Despite an empty trophy cabinet, Shastri signed off with notable Test wins in away conditions. Under him, the Kohli-led unit in 2018-19 became the first Asian Test team to beat Australia in their backyard.
Shastri further cited the example of Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev taking an exit route after captaining the team, adding that Kohli now wants to prioritize his batting and enjoy cricket.
“Virat Kohli led India in 5-6 years in Tests and out of those, five years India was no. 1. No Indian captain has this kind of record and there are only a handful of captains over the world with this kind of record. So when the most successful captain decides to step down as captain it's an individual's decision because his record of 40 wins is unprecedented.”
"So he only knows how much is he enjoying captaincy. When Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni were not enjoying captaincy, they left. Similarly, when Virat thought that he had won 40 matches, six years he had been leading and now he wants to enjoy his cricket. He wants to focus on his batting and release a bit of pressure and it happens with a lot of individuals."
"Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar quit captaincy to focus on their game, so Virat also had the same thing on his mind," Shastri added.