Virat Kohli to step down as RCB skipper after IPL 2021
The ongoing IPL season, Virat Kohli’s ninth as Royal Challengers Bangalore captain will also be his last as the leader of the franchise. Three days after making it public that he will not lead India in T20 cricket after the upcoming World Cup, Kohli declared in a late evening press communication through his franchise that this shall be his last hurrah as IPL captain.
“It wasn't an easy decision but one that has been well thought of and in the best interest of this wonderful franchise,” Kohli said in his statement. “The RCB family remains close to my heart as we continue to strive to achieve excellence. It has been a great and an inspiring journey, captaining a talented bunch of players in the RCB squad.”
In a video statement released on social media, Kohli also said that he has told the franchise's management that he would like to be an RCB player "till the day I play my last match in the IPL".
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the RCB management, coaches, support staff, players, and the entire RCB family, who have been instrumental in the growth of the franchise over the years,” he added.
The scrutiny on Kohli as a captain in the IPL has grown over the last few years as RCB have never won an IPL title.
Kohli, 32, became RCB captain in 2013 and has been an integral part of the franchise as a player since the IPL began in 2008. No other person other than MS Dhoni (196) has led his team in IPL on more occasions (132). As a batsman, Kohli’s best season was in 2016 when he amassed more than 900 runs in a season and grabbed the orange cap. It was also the year RCB reached the final for the only time under Kohli.
The decision to step away from IPL leadership, coming so soon after his announcement that he will not captain India in T20s, is consistent with Kohli's desire to lessen his workload. Being an all-format leader of India and his franchise seemed to have taken a toll on his batting of late. One of the finest batters of his generation, Kohli has now had an unprecedented drought, going without a century for 53 international innings. His last hundred came in a Test match against Bangladesh in November 2019.
Kohli’s decisions to give up leadership roles in T20 cricket may also have been a result of increasing scrutiny around his leadership style that caught the attention of the decision makers in BCCI. It is also understood there was growing discontent within the Indian side with what is seen as a domineering leadership style as well as with playing eleven selections. All of this, in addition to the pressure that playing consistently in bio bubbles for the past year and half brings, may have contributed to Kohli's decisions.
For all the pathbreaking success India has had under Kohli in Tests, white-ball showings as a leader haven’t been as impressive. How his final two months as a leader in T20s go may decide whether he gets to continue as India’s ODI captain, something he has expressed keen interest in with a home ODI World Cup coming up in 2023.
RCB Chairman Prathmesh Mishra spoke glowingly of the franchise’s most marketable player on whose back the brand RCB continues to command a high premium despite modest on-field returns. “Virat Kohli is one of the finest cricketers and has been a true asset to RCB. His impeccable work ethics and leadership skills has been phenomenal. We respect and support this decision and would like to thank Virat for his incredible contribution to the RCB leadership group," Mishra said in his statement.
RCB coach Mike Hesson tweeted: "...as a fully committed leader and team man your energy and passion is infectious. I know the boys are fully committed to help send you out on a well deserved high skipper."