End of an era as Kohli finishes his innings

End of an era as Kohli finishes his innings

Has Virat Kohli really left behind a legacy worth emulating?

The failure to win an IPL title despite being the skipper of Royal Challengers Bangalore for nine seasons will be a heavy cross to bear for Virat Kohli. Credit: IPL20.BCCI

Soon after the Kolkata Knight Riders completed a spirited win over the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator on Monday, the spotlight turned on Virat Kohli. The cameras followed him wherever he went; from the hyperbolic commentators to fans on social media, the talk was about Kohli's legacy as RCB captain. 

For a man who has just won 66 of the 140 matches he has led the Royal Challengers in and attained a best finish of runners-up way back in 2016, the question that immediately arises is - has Kohli really left behind a legacy worth emulating? True, it's the end of an era at RCB with the 32-year-old having already decided to step down as captain. But as great as he has been with the bat in the league, his captaincy record has been equally abysmal.  

Kohli hasn’t delivered five IPL titles like Rohit Sharma for the Mumbai Indians or created a cult following like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who, apart from winning three trophies for the Chennai Super Kings, has turned them into the most consistent and admired — player-wise —  franchise in the biggest T20 league. Even at 40 and with his powers on the wane, Dhoni’s following is unparalleled.    

Kohli hasn’t even scripted a sensational turnaround like Gautam Gambhir, who led from the front amazingly and won KKR’s only two titles in 2012 and 2014. Kohli hasn’t done a Shane Warne, the Australian getting a bunch of ragtag players at the Rajasthan Royals to win the inaugural trophy. Even David Warner helped the Sunrisers Hyderabad triumph in 2016 where RCB lost in the final. Ever since Kohli started to lead RCB midway through the 2012 season, RCB have only qualified for the play-offs on four occasions. Kohli’s record as leader in comparison to all of the above mentioned captains isn’t great — statiscally speaking at least.    

So, what is Kohli's legacy? The answer is simple: A wonderful one as a player but not as a captain.  As a batsman, there is no one like Kohli in the IPL. With 6,283 runs in 207 games at an average of 37.39, Kohli has not only led RCB’s batting phenomenally but is also way ahead in the all-time run-makers list. As a captain, Kohli has amassed 4,881 runs at an impressive average of 42.08 with five hundreds and 35 fifties. None of the other captains come close to him in terms of individual performances.

Kohli, one of the most marketable athletes in the world, has also ensured that RCB remain one of the most popular franchises, despite an empty trophy cabinet. The Mumbai Indians and the Super Kings are the undisputed heavyweights but RCB is no less popular than those two. The presence of players like Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers helped maintain RCB’s high-profile image but there’s no doubt that Kohli wielded the biggest influence.

Although he aspired to take RCB to a whole new level, Kohli just couldn’t deliver as a captain. While the franchise is to be partly blamed for their poor scouting, constant poor decision-making at the auctions and an over-reliance on superstar players to get the job done, Kohli also has to be held accountable for the team’s repeated failures.

One of Kohli's major drawbacks is his inability to contain his emotions when he steps on to the field. While that simmering temper is what presumably makes him click, the same aggressive mantra doesn’t hold good for the rest of the team. His approach may have worked with the Indian team but it has failed miserably in a team comprising an assortment of players from foreign countries and a domestic pool. This collection of players might not always be on the same page.

It's also instructive to note that as much success as Kohli has enjoyed as captain in Tests, his record in white-ball cricket isn't worth writing home about. He may be good in bilateral series but he has done precious little in terms of big titles at multi-team events. That's where the problem perhaps lies and the solution as well.

In cricket, it’s often said that the captain is only as good as his team. Yes, it’s a valid argument but there are moments in a game when captaincy plays a huge role in the eventual outcome. When pressure is at a crescendo, the team eventually banks on the captain to make those critical decisions. Two of the Mumbai Indians’ titles —  2017 and 2019 — came in last-ball finishes. In both those games, Rohit’s street-smart captaincy and quick thinking were hailed as difference-makers. Rohit did gamble but they were educated bets. 

Even in the Indian team where Kohli has created a winning culture and is the most successful Test skipper, many players seemingly find it comfortable to communicate with the easy-going Rohit. The same applies with the Mumbai Indians too. Rohit has been instrumental in guiding the careers of several youngsters who were just ordinary players before blossoming into India internationals now.

About Dhoni as a captain, there’s enough literature out there talking about his greatness. And when it comes to crunch situations and installing confidence in players (both young and old), there’s no one quite like him. Even Rohit and Kohli have often spoken highly about Dhoni’s influence on them when they were youngsters.

Kohli, who has said that he’ll only ever play for RCB in the IPL, now takes a backseat. It’s probably a good thing for RCB as they can now find a new captain and a fresh set of players to steer them towards a new future. 

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