“Captaincy is just a C in front of my name.”
Virat Kohli gave headline writers around the country an easy winner, as he spoke to Ian Bishop after his side had completed a comprehensive win over West Indies in the second Test at Sabina Park in Jamaica on Monday.
India completed another crushing victory over the West Indies, demolishing the home side by 257 runs on the fourth afternoon of the second and final Test.
And with that win, not for the first time in his career, Kohli went where no Indian has gone before in the history of the game. This was Kohli’s 28th win as Indian captain in 48 Tests and he went past the record of 27 held by MS Dhoni (60 Tests).
Arguably, the greatest batsman India has produced is now, without an argument, the most successful leader the game has seen in the longest format.
Among the many milestones he has achieved in his glittering career, this must rank very high for Kohli, given the passion he has for Test cricket and how much he loves winning. This achievement combines both of those attributes into one.
“It’s the collective effort that matters,” Kohli said during the post-match presentation. “It’s a by-product of this quality team that we have here, to be honest. If we didn’t have the bowlers that we have, I don’t think the results would have been possible.”
True as that may be, history (and statisticians) has a tendency of remembering dominant Test teams by the name of the captain. Clive Lloyd’s West Indies. Sir Don Bradman’s Australia. Steve Waugh’s Australia. Ricky Ponting’s Australia. Sourav Ganguly’s India. MS Dhoni’s India.
And now Virat Kohli’s India.
And, as he becomes the first captain to lead the Indian side to a clean sweep in the West Indies, we take a look at the numbers behind his to rise to the top of a list adorned by legends of the game.
(Note: Scroll horizontally on mobile phone to view all columns in the table)
|Captain||Matches as capt.||Won||Lost||Draw||W/L|
|AR Border||93||32||22||38 (1 tied)||1.454|
A brilliant home record
For starters, India have won a match in every country they have played Tests under Kohli’s captaincy except Bangladesh, where a rain-hit match ended in a draw.
Of course, no one can forget that Kohli became the first captain to lead India to a series win in Australia, after decades and decades of trying. He had famously rated that series win earlier this year as a feeling perhaps even better than lifting the World Cup in 2011.
Virat Kohli's record as India's Test captain
|in Sri Lanka||6||5||1||0|
|in West Indies||6||4||0||2|
|in South Africa||3||1||2||0|
Kohli has taken just 48 Tests to go past Dhoni’s record of 27, which came in 60 Tests.
The win/loss ratio is considered the most reliable marker when it comes to judging the success of a side in cricket. The caveat to that metric is that it does a disservice to the number of draws played out, and for captains in the era where draws were a common occurrence, this index will not be favourable.
Having said that, Kohli’s W/L ratio is the best (by some distance at home) among Indian captains.
Win/Loss ratios for India's captains
|Captain||Overall matches||Overall W-L-D record||Overall W/L ratio||Home W/L ratio||Away W/L ratio|
|N Kapil Dev||34||4-7-22 (1 tie)||0.571||0.500||0.666|
Kohli’s rapid ascent to the top of the wins-list is built on an enviable home record.
As a popular cricket writer pointed out in a Twitter thread that went viral recently, Indian fans and pundits have a rather condescending view of records set in home conditions. Somehow, we never attach great importance to India’s near unbeatable status in their own backyard in the longest format.
But how does this sound: Kohli’s win/loss ratio at home is an astonishing 15.000. In 16 home Tests as captain, he has tasted defeat only once. Thanks to a Steve Smith masterclass in Pune. That W/L ratio is, in fact, the HIGHEST EVER in the history of the game (criteria: minimum 20 Tests as captain) among all countries.
Best W/L ratio for captains in home Tests
But most captains, Indian or otherwise, are judged for greatness based on their record away from home. That is where Ganguly earned his status as the legend that he is treated as today. That is why Steve Waugh’s Australia was so keen on winning in India, their Final Frontier.
Kohli, as you can see from table below, is doing pretty well on that front as well. He is the only Asian captain to feature in the list of ten most successful captains in the history of the game away from home. In fact, his 13 wins as captain away from home puts him joint-fifth on the all-time list (level with Allan Border).
Best W/L ratio for captains in away Tests
Given this is the era result-oriented Tests, how does Kohli’s record stack up against the best captains since the turn of this century?
Best W/L ratio for captains since 2000
|F du Plessis||29||17||9||3||1.888|
Finally, where does Kohli stand in the all-time list of most successful captains in terms of win percentage? Quite high. His 58.33% record places him sixth in the table. Only Faf du Plessis, who was part of arguably the best touring side since the turn of the century, is ahead of Kohli among active captains. But not by much.
All-time win % for captains in Tests
|Captain||Span||Matches||Win-Loss-Draw||Win %||Win / Loss ratio|
|SR Waugh (AUS)||1999-2004||57||41-9-7||71.93||4.555|
|DG Bradman (AUS)||1936-1948||24||15-3-6||62.50||5|
|RT Ponting (AUS)||2004-2010||77||48-16-13||62.34||3|
|F du Plessis (SA)||2016-2019||29||17-9-3||58.62||1.888|
|AL Hassett (AUS)||1949-1953||24||14-4-6||58.33||3.5|
|V Kohli (IND)||2014-2019||48||28-10-10||58.33||2.8|
|JM Brearley (ENG)||1977-1981||31||18-4-9||58.06||4.5|
|KS Williamson (NZ)||2016-2019||26||15-6-5||57.69||2.5|
|WM Woodfull (AUS)||1930-1934||25||14-7-4||56.00||2|
|IVA Richards (WI)||1980-1991||50||27-8-15||54.00||3.375|
Kohli’s career as a promising batsman began in Kingston, Jamaica in June 2011.
Kohli’s captaincy crossed a significant milestone in Kingston, Jamaica in September 2019.
His captaincy in itself might confound viewers at times but his record as captain is stunning, to say the least as the numbers suggest. One cannot help but think there are many more captaincy milestones to come in the format he enjoys playing and leading in more than any other.
(All statistics courtesy ESPNCricinfo Statsguru)