Virat Kohli's journey as the captain of the Indian cricket team came full circle at the beginning of this year when India won their first-ever Test series Down Under. He was back at the place, where his tenure started abruptly and unlike last time, he led his troops to victory over the not so mighty but good Australians.
Following their triumph Down Under, India played their first Test series against the West Indies, which they won by margins of 318 runs and 257 runs, respectively, to stamp their authority on Test cricket as the No.1 side. With 120 points now, India sit pretty on top of the newly formed World Test Championship, a prize that Kohli has his eyes set on in 2021.
But, as the West Indies series came to an end, Kohli added yet another feather to his cap after four-and-a-half-years of captaincy in the longest format of the game. On Monday, Kohli became the most successful Test captain India has ever produced and all this at the age of 30 and a good few years at the helm to come.
The victory in Jamaica was his 28th in Tests for Kohli as a captain. Kohli overtook Dhoni, who had 27 wins under his belt from 60 games at the helm.
Kohli has a win percentage of 58.33 -- the best among Indian captains in the longest format of the game. Under his captaincy, India have played 48 Tests, winning 28 of them and losing and drawing 10 each. Dhoni, his predecessor, captained India in 60 Tests, winning 27, losing 18 and drawing 15. The former captain had a win per cent of 45.
Sourav Ganguly is third in the list with 21 wins from 49 games as captain. He lost 13 and drew 15.
The 30-year-old had also surpassed Ganguly with the most Test wins in overseas matches for India as captain after the first Test of the series. Kohli now has 13 away wins as captain in 27 matches, while Ganguly had 11 wins in 28 games.
A journey that started in Australia after Dhoni's sudden retirement, Kohli took the legacy forward to reach the zenith of Indian cricket.
While the 'who is the greatest captain ever?' debate continues in Indian cricket, Kohli has navigated past all that to reach the top. While some say Dhoni changed the way Indian cricket was played in the last decade, some are of the view that Ganguly should be credited for the change of mentality at the turn of the century. But, Kohli's journey has been different and as results show, the most fruitful.
His first stint as captain was in a 1-3 losing cause for India but his intent at Adelaide in his first game as a skipper signaled the dawn of a new era in Indian cricket. Centuries in both innings in his first Test as a captain -- the second ever to do so after Greg Chappell and the decision to chase down a steep total showed the world that Kohli the captain is not going to be bogged down under pressure.
India's next assignment under him was in Sri Lanka and the first match ended in a loss but the next two went in India's favour and a come from behind victory on Sri Lankan soil after 22 years signaled the intent from Kohli & Co. Next came a dominating 3-0 win over South Africa and the return to the top of Test cricket after a 2-0 series win in West Indies. Further comprehensive series wins at home followed over New Zealand, England and Bangladesh as the bandwagon marched on under Kohli's leadership.
While Kohli was also setting records with the bat during the period, he went past Sunil Gavaskar's record of most matches undefeated in Test cricket. Kohli now had 19 compared to Gavaskar's 18. A tougher test was ahead with Australia touring India in 2017. India lost the first Test at Pune but won at Bengaluru and Dharamsala to win the series 2-1 and remain on top of the pile in Test cricket.
However, the real challenges were ahead.
India had to tour South Africa, England and Australia in 2018 and that was Kohli's litmus test. India played well and showed great promise with the man himself and the pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma performed to their best of abilities. But, in the end, India succumbed to a 1-2 and 4-1 loss to South Africa and England, respectively, despite going toe-to-toe with the oppositions throughout the course of the series. But, it was all about to change.
Kohli's attitude and team's desire to bounce back saw them perform exceedingly well in Australia and win the four-match series 2-1. Kohli's men became the first Asian side to conquer Down Under and it was a side that beat the Aussies in their own game at their own backyard. As the series came to an end, Bumrah, Shami and Ishant had 133 wickets among themselves over the past three tours -- a stat that is unmatched in the history of Indian cricket.
And, even as India dominated the Windies to re-start their Test innings, it was the pacers who did the job for Kohli and he was appreciative of that.
"It's a by-product of the quality team we have here (becoming the most successful Indian captain). If we didn't have the bowlers we have, these results wouldn't have been possible.
"If you see these guys running in - Shami's spell today, Bumrah after having a small niggle, Ishant bowling his heart out, Jadeja bowling a long spell. Captaincy is just a C in front of your name. It's the collective effort that matters," Kohli said.
"For us, it's just the start of the (World Test) Championship. Whatever's happened in the past is irrelevant," he added.
One more thing that sets Kohli apart from the rest is his record as a batsman during his tenure as a captain. While most struggle to keep up the consistency, Kohli has managed to outscore himself on occasions and others more regularly. In 2016, as India embarked on a home stretch, Kohli scored double hundreds in four consecutive series against West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh and England. He carried the same form in the away legs as well, scoring memorable centuries in Centurion, Edgbaston and Perth under challenging circumstances.
The Indian captain has always risen along with the occasion and continues to do so. With South Africa next and a trip to New Zealand early next year, India's WTC fixtures are going to go up by a notch with every passing game but if Kohli's desire, ability and panache over his tenure is anything to go by, Kohli is set to leave a legacy that will be hard to touch in the future.