On Thursday, September 16, Virat Kohli announced his decision to quit as India's T20I captain post the upcoming T20 World Cup, thereby bringing an end to days of relentless speculations. But is it as simple as it looks or has the door for bigger events in Indian cricket been unlocked?
It started with a report - now being called the 'Scoop of the Year' - blatantly declaring that Virat Kohli, India's mercurial all-format captain, will step down from his throne in the T20Is.
The 'scoop and the scooper' were slammed left, right and centre without realising that all source-based news are not just click baits and that every truth at some point is a speculation.
Virat Kohli might be taking too long to reach to that elusive international 71st international hundred but it definitely did not take him that long to confirm that he was set to hand over the T20I baton and focus on being "fully ready to lead the India Team in Test and ODI cricket". In his statement, the 32-year-old also talked about his immense "workload" and its role in the decision-making.
But is it a late realisation or a deliberate act of insulating oneself, realising the course the events lying ahead. The decision could have come two years ago when the team suffered a heartbreak loss versus New Zealand in the semi-final of 2019 World Cup. He could have unleashed the same tweet during the 21-day break after having failed to win and ICC an event for the third time, with India going down to the Blackcaps in the 2021 WTC final.
The 'Scoop of the Year' had gone viral for reporting that Kohli, after T20 World Cup 2021 in the UAE and Oman, was set to bid adieu to the captaincy in both ODI and T20I formats and not just the latter. That would have deprived the superstar cricketer of one more opportunity to lay his hand on an ICC silverware. With his decision to step down only after November, Kohli has ensured himself two opportunities (2021 T20 World cup and 2023 World Cup) to have a crack at the elusive titles in the shorter formats. There will be another WTC final in 2023 and considering India's turnaround in the longest format under his watch, a third opportunity is also on the cards.
That leaves Rohit Sharma, Kohli's most likely successor, with perhaps one chance to become India's World Cup-winning captain. The T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia will be the Mumbaikar's, who will be 35 then, only chance for captainship glory.
Captain Cool factor in Kings Kohli's decision?
This sounds bizarre! Isn't it? MS Dhoni is known as the man who guided an overly brash Kohli and transformed him into a leader which he is today. Until the time Dhoni was on the ground, Kohli was seen seeking suggestions from him. 'You will always be my captain' -- Kohli had famously said for his predecessor. But did this guidance made him feel small, insecure and uncomfortable for the first time?
MS Dhoni made a surprise entry into the Indian contingent for the upcoming T20 World Cup. It's been more than a year since he left the international stage but the news of Dhoni entering the dressing room as a mentor this time, rekindled fan emotions and hope of nation's first ICC trophy after 2013. The 40-year-old won the first-ever T20 World Cup, 2011 World Cup, then the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 and here he was, again taking over the centre stage despite retirement.
A win for Virat Kohli will not be called his alone now. Blame of another loss in a high-profile tournament will also be not put on him. Moreover, the announcement helps him portray that it was he himself who took the decision to give away his kingdom in which he has managed massive success as a captain. With 27 wins in 45 matches, only Asghar Afghan and Sarfaraz Ahmed have better win percentage than Kohli in the format.
Moreover, India have played only 8 T20Is this year, with Kohli featuring in only 5 of it. If not captaining in these handful of matches can help Kohli survive the "immense" workload, quitting Royal Challengers Bangalore's captaincy will surely do wonders.
No threats to Kohli's ODI captaincy?
Not really. Virat Kohli is surely not the batsmen he used to be. The purple patch is gone. The 50s and the 60s keep on coming but that is not what made Kohli the biggest star of modern day cricket.
Being a captain in all-formats and not scoring is worrisome, but not as worrisome as when you are not. A bad T20 World Cup as a captain, the next captain inspiring the team and winning matches, will only make the situation tricky and gloomy for Kohli. The dream of captaining India in World Cup 2023 at home can come crushing down.
India's tour of South Africa later this year can be be the most crucial series for the right-hander.
Tough job for the next India coach
Ravi Shastri, who tested Covid-positive in England recently, is almost out of the picture. The 59-year-old's run will come to end with the conclusion of India's T20 World Cup campaign. Kohli shared a great camaraderie with the former all-rounder.
Being the captain of the Indian cricket team is the toughest job in world cricket and needless to say, working with two superstar-cricketers-cum-captains in three different format will be an even more herculean task.
In usual scenarios, there is one captain for the white-ball formats and another one for the longest format, like the template followed by England and Australia. With Virat Kohli giving up the T20I captaincy only, the Shastri's successor will have the tough task to formulate the correct formulae.
Vice-captaincy race for the youngsters
If Rohit Sharma, the T20I vice-captain is becoming the captain than there a lucrative opening for the others. Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah are some names doing the round. The one ending up with the job can very well become the next India captain.
Overall, interesting times for Virat Kohli, his teammates, youngsters and other stakeholders of the Indian cricket.