Virat Kohli's IPL captaincy stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore, spanning 11 seasons, 2011 to 2021, came to an end on Monday with his team bowing out of IPL 2021 in the eliminator. While he might have endured as many losses as victories in his time in charge (140 games, 64 wins, 69 losses, three ties, four no-results), through the ups and downs, Kohli said, he had given his all to the franchise as a leader, and tried to create an environment that let players express themselves.
"I've tried my best to create a culture here where youngsters could come in and play expressive cricket, play with belief. It's something I've tried to do at the Indian team level as well," Kohli told host broadcaster Star Sports after the four-wicket defeat, Kolkata Knight Riders having squeezed home with two balls to spare in a chase of 139. "All I can say is that I've given my best. I don't know how the response has been to that, but I can vouch for the fact that I've given my 120% to this franchise every year, leading the team.
"And as I said, I will continue to give that effort on the field as a player from now on. It's a great time to regroup, restructure the franchise for the next three years, and bring in people who can take this culture and this franchise to the next level, moving forward."
Kohli reiterated that he will continue to play for only Royal Challengers in the IPL. "As I said, I don't see myself playing anywhere else. To me loyalty matters more than other things which, from the worldly point of view, seem more important. This franchise has believed in me and my commitment is to this franchise till the last day I play the IPL."
While Royal Challengers finished fourth in IPL 2021, still looking for their first title win, they had a largely successful season. They had nine wins in 14 games in the league stage, and only missed out on a top-two finish to Chennai Super Kings on net run rate. They also had several players putting together outstanding seasons. Chief among them was pacer Harshal Patel, who ended with 32 wickets, the joint-highest in an IPL season.
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Harshal credited Kohli and the Royal Challengers management for his growth as a bowler, and said that while Kohli will not be the captain anymore, he will always remain a leader within the franchise.
"Obviously every one knows the kind of energy and passion Virat brings to the field. He backs bowlers, gives them their space, allows them to execute their skills and plans. So I'm very thankful to him," Harshal said. "I've learned a lot playing with him, since I think 2012. In terms of his captaincy, there are captains and there are leaders, and he's definitely a leader. Just because he won't have the tag of a captain doesn't make him any less of a leader.
"I've said this many times earlier too, the RCB management and Virat showed a lot of confidence in me from the start. Till this year, I had never bowled in the death overs in the IPL. I had bowled [in domestic cricket] for Haryana [at the death] but never in the IPL. To then give me that responsibility, they would have definitely seen something in me. They made the decision that I'll be bowling the most difficult overs. I'm very grateful for the faith that they have shown in me.
"I was the same bowler I am today probably last year [when he played for Delhi Capitals]. But the fact that I didn't get enough opportunities… and coming back here to RCB and straightaway being given the responsibility of bowling the death overs, that definitely made a difference."
Kohli's best result with Royal Challengers was in 2016, when he led them to the final. They had also reached the final in 2011, but Daniel Vettori was the regular captain that season, with Kohli standing in in three league games. They finished third in 2015, and also went out in the eliminator last season. In 2012-2014 and 2017-2019, they did not make the playoffs, finishing bottom of the league twice in that latter period.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo