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Virat Kohli’s T20I captaincy will be defined by the T20 World Cup, but it shouldn’t be

by Sarah Waris 5 minute read

The craze for winning trophies is so immense that a captain is often cast aside if he fails to lay his hands on them. Kohli’s T20I captaincy could go a similar way if he does not clinch the T20 World Cup but it shouldn’t, writes Sarah Waris.

Ravi Shastri was forthright when he quipped “In my seven years with this Indian team, I don’t remember one white-ball game. I would like to see less and less bilateral T20 cricket. Look at football. You have the Premier League, the Spanish league, the Italian league, the German league. They all come together [for the Champions League]. There are few bilateral football [friendlies] now. The national teams only play for the World Cup or World Cup qualifying. I think that’s the way T20 cricket should go.”

His interview with the Guardian, just weeks before his tenure as the head coach of India ends, was bold and straight from the heart, a reflection of the persona of the big man, who has copped criticism and scrutiny with nonchalance.

For a team who have thrived on keeping Test cricket alive, the importance, or the lack of it, given to T20Is is a refreshing change in an age when retirements from the longer formats to concede to the lure of white-ball games is increasingly becoming the norm. Shastri also touched upon the hectic schedule that arises due to these ‘meaningless’ T20Is, and while that is a debate for another day, what we cannot deny is how his words will be used against him if India fail to return with the World Cup this year.

In what will be Shastri and Kohli’s last lap, the Indians will look to go all out to commemorate the highly successful partnership that has allowed India fans to revel in innumerable wins across conditions and continents. While the Test successes have ensured India reaches the zenith among cricketing nations, a true champion team is able to convert their dominance across formats, a feat India have managed to achieve with aplomb.

Yes, Shastri might not remember every single win, and Kohli might have been focused on his next Test assignment moments after he led his team out following another comprehensive T20I series victory, but if you have forgotten and are gearing up to diss the team’s achievements in case they fail to win the T20 World Cup, and look down upon Kohli the white-ball captain for the lack of a trophy, then here’s a gentle reminder.

T20I successes under Kohli should not be forgotten

Kohli has led India in 45 matches, with 27 wins, 14 losses, and a W/L ratio of 1.928 and a win percentage of 65.11. The only other captain to have a better win percentage than him (after leading in at least 40 T20Is) is Asghar Afghan. Among captains who have led in at least 30 games, Kohli has the third-best win percentage, with Sarfaraz Ahmed ahead of the Indian, with 29 wins from 37 matches.

Under the Delhi player, India have been on a roll in the last two years, with five successive bilateral wins in a row, starting from December 2019, where they won 2-1 against defending World T20 champions West Indies, till February 2021, when they got the better of 50-over champions England at home. In the interim, they defeated Sri Lanka at home, Australia away, and also completed a convincing white-wash over New Zealand. Before India went down to Sri Lanka in July (with Shikhar Dhawan as skipper), India had last lost a T20I series in February 2019, against Australia. Overall, under Kohli, India have won six series overseas, and he is the first leader to captain his side to T20I series wins in all SENA countries.

While it can be argued that a captain is as good as his team, and a more settled unit allows Kohli, who otherwise has below-par numbers in the IPL as skipper, to notch repeated wins, surely that argument will go for a toss when he will be the one to be accused if India does not return with a T20 World Cup win. If he will be responsible then, then surely, India’s T20I successes warrant him some credit.

A beast with the bat as skipper

Kohli’s T20I stats as captain are inspiring. While leading India, Kohli has amassed 1,502 runs @ 48.45, which is the fourth-most runs in the format while leading a side. He is also the quickest to 1,000 T20I runs as skipper, reaching the landmark only 30 innings. He has scored 12 fifties while leading, which is the most by any captain.

In wins, Kohli averages a stunning 57.76, which is the most by any captain who has scored at least 500 T20I runs, and his average of 82.50 while chasing further reveals how he excels under pressure. Kohli has scored eight fifties in 18 innings while chasing at a strike rate of nearing 142 and has a jaw-dropping average of 95.85 as a skipper in successful chases.

Yes, trophies are important for they often script a player’s legacy: a major reason why Dhoni is considered as the best India captain. In a country where a player is shunned or accepted based on his performances on the world stage, Kohli runs the risk of being the target of trolls if India fails to win their first T20 World Cup since 2007, but one bad day should not make us forget the efforts of the last few years. Maybe T20I bilaterals are hardly worth remembering but rejecting them altogether and judging a player based on one bad day in the field should not be acceptable either.

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