Speaking on the RCB Podcast, India star Virat Kohli opened up on his captaincy and the relationship he shared with his predecessor, MS Dhoni.
Under Kohli’s tenure as captain, India achieved massive success across formats.
The side won 40 out of 68 Tests, 65 out of 95 ODIs and 30 out of 50 T20Is under Kohli’s leadership. During his years as skipper, India achieved limited overs success away from home including historic ODI series wins in Australia and South Africa.
In the longer format, they showcased an enviable dominance at home while also being competitive away. This included a first-ever series win Down Under in 2018/19.
At the same time there were drawbacks, including a failure to win ICC trophies.
However, Kohli didn’t judge himself for this lack of success. For him bringing about a change in the team's culture was the high point of his leadership. Under Kohli's leadership, India reached the final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, the semis of the 2019 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup and the final of the 2021 ICC World Test Championship.
“Look you play to win tournaments, and a lot was made of it (India not winning ICC tournaments) to be honest,” Kohli said. “ We reached the finals of 2017 Champions Trophy, we reached the semis of the World Cup and finals of the Test Championship, and I was considered as a failed captain. I never judged myself from that point of view.
“What we ended up achieving as a team and the cultural change, for me that’s always going to be a matter of pride because tournaments happen for a certain period of time but a culture happens over a long period of time, and for that you need consistency, for that you need more character than just winning a tournament.”
Kohli was grateful for the success he saw as a player and believed that winning trophies depended on several variables including discipline and conduct.
“I won World Cup as a player (2011), I won the Champions Trophy (2013) as a player. I’ve been part of a team that won five Test maces. If you look at it from that point of view, there have been people who have never won a World Cup.
“When things are meant to be, things are meant to be. Sachin Tendulkar was playing his sixth World Cup, and that was the one he won. And I was a part of the team for the first time, and we ended up winning the World Cup. So if I had to look at what went wrong with my career, it’s very easy to do that, but I look at what’s gone right in my career and I’m grateful for that.”
Kohli described his relationship with India legend MS Dhoni in glowing terms. Kohli’s leadership stint with the senior side began as vice-captain under Dhoni.
It was after Dhoni’s retirement that Kohli took over as Test skipper in 2014. And in January 2017, Kohli again stepped up to become the team’s leader after Dhoni quit as the limited-overs captain.
Kohli said that there was no “awkwardness” in his transition to captaincy because Dhoni understood that the Delhi player had a good grasp of the game.
“With me and MS (Dhoni), there was no question of any awkwardness in that whole period because MS chose me,” Kohli added.
“It wasn’t the other way around. When you understand that as a captain, you already have someone who has been under your wing since he was 23 and vice-captain.
“I was always having conversations with him about what we can do in the field. My suggestions to him, whether we can take it on the board. So I was always his right-hand man. I was always there understanding the game and we also got confidence, because I was playing a lot of match-winning knocks for the team.
“So he understood that I understand the game, I understand where the game is going and what I need to do. I was giving him a lot of input on the field. I was always with the feel of the game.
“He understood that very early, so he kind of took me under his wing and since 2012, I was groomed to be the next guy who’s going to take over. That’s why it (transition) was very smooth.”