Timeline of Kohli's Test captaincy - World No.1, brain fade, and 36 all out

His seven-year stint as Test captain included unprecedented highs, the occasional low, as well as several flashpoints

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
Virat Kohli made a century in each innings in his first Test as captain, in 2014  •  Getty Images

Virat Kohli made a century in each innings in his first Test as captain, in 2014  •  Getty Images

A first taste
December 2014
Virat Kohli was already the heir apparent when he stood in for MS Dhoni against Australia in Adelaide in 2014 and immediately showed he was unafraid to make the big calls. Reasoning that wristpin was a more attacking option than fingerspin, he dropped R Ashwin and gave Karn Sharma a debut. Then he went and made twin-centuries. India needed 365 runs in 98 overs on the last day of that game and they went for it. They really went for it. The fairytale was not to be - Nathan Lyon took care of that - but the die had been cast. India under Kohli were going to be must-see.
Conquering Sri Lanka
August 2015
Kohli's resolve was forged in defeat and there was one in particular that shaped his entire seven-year tenure. Galle 2015. India had dominated that game - as a first-innings lead of 192 will suggest - but then it vanished as Dinesh Chandimal and Rangana Herath produced one of the greatest fightbacks ever. That loss - from that position - hurt Kohli so badly that all of his focus went into turning his team into one that can dominate not just for the course of one innings but for a whole match. That's why he demanded the highest standards of fitness. That's why he triggered the Indian pace race. And though the tour began in defeat, it ended with India winning a Test series in Sri Lanka for the first time in 22 years.
"I didn't say that, you did"
March 2017
A series win in West Indies. Three double-hundreds in 11 innings. Everything was coming up Kohli when Australia popped by in 2017. Their tireless bowling line-up was able to keep him quiet all series but one incident set him off big time. Steven Smith said it was a "brain fade." Looking to the dressing room for help in deciding whether to review an on-field lbw decision. Kohli insisted it was something more. "It's happened twice, that I've seen their players looking upstairs for confirmation," he said. "I don't want to mention the word, but it falls in that bracket. I would never do something like that on the cricket field."
When asked if the word he didn't want to mention was "cheating", Kohli replied: "I didn't say that, you did."
India took the series 2-1. Smith scored not one but two career-defining centuries in Pune. Kohli couldn't get past 15 in five innings.
Kohli vs Kumble
May 2017
Kohli the captain and Anil Kumble the coach? Who can stop India now? The arrival of perhaps the biggest match winner India has ever had into a dressing room that was already doing amazing things seemed like something to celebrate. But then, just before the Champions Trophy in 2017, rumours of unrest began to break out. The captain and the coach were falling out. The BCCI rallied everyone to patch things up. They brought in Sachin Tendulkar. They brought in VVS Laxman. They brought in Sourav Ganguly. Nothing worked. Kohli wanted a change. He was the most powerful man in Indian cricket and he knew what he could do if he dug his heels in.
Kumble eventually resigned saying his partnership with the captain had become "untenable". Ravi Shastri came back in and took over from there.
The mountain top
January 2018
He batted like a dream in Centurion. But he was the only one. And the series was gone. Then came one of the most brutal Test matches in recent memory. The Wanderers produced a pitch so violent that at one point - when Dean Elgar was struck flush on his helmet - there appeared a very real chance that it might get called off. But Kohli and his team wouldn't let that happen. They had batted in these same conditions without complaining. In the end, India had their victory and through the course of it Kohli overtook Sunil Gavaskar and Dhoni to become the highest scoring captain in his country's history.
Mr Anderson...
July-August 2018
India's tour of England in 2018 was all about one thing. Kohli vs James Anderson. And whether the events of 2014 would repeat themselves. It did look possible - the England seamer beat that MRF bat so many times - but the wicket never came. Kohli exorcised a demon on that tour - scoring two high-quality centuries - but his team still wasn't equipped to win in those seamer-friendly conditions. England beat them 4-1.
The fruits of labour
January 2019
All this while, India were learning. Growing. They were finding players ready-made for international cricket. Gifts of the IPL and of a concerted investment into the Test format. Failure is always hard but Kohli understood that with each one they were getting closer and closer to the ultimate goal: winning away from home. On January 7, 2019, they finally did. Kohli had become the first-ever India captain to win a Test series in Australia.
The drought
Kohli is that rare kind of batter who looks like he could score a century after facing just one ball. It wasn't so much about the shots that he could play but the attitude behind them. The giant front foot stride. That permanent scowl on his face. The thirst for a fight. At times, when he's ready in his stance and looking at the bowler, he has all the impatience of a child waiting for their parent to take them to the park. He just always wants to get on with it. But between November 2019 and January 2022, over 27 innings in Test cricket and 62 across all formats, that hundred that once seemed preordained just never came.
The encore Down Under
December 2020-January 2021
Adelaide. 36 all out. Much like Galle, India were dominating the game, only to lose it in the freakiest way. Kohli had to leave at the end of that game to be with his wife for the birth of their child. "I'm sure we will bounce back strongly in the next Test and there is no doubt about that." he said. A few days later, as a brand new father, he was tweeting with a heart full of pride as Ajinkya Rahane led an injury-ravaged team to incredible glory.
The king and the crown (that slipped away)
June 2021
India were now world beaters, largely thanks to a well-rounded, often ferocious bowling attack. They went on a tour of West Indies in 2019 when all anyone could talk about was how the shoe was now on the other foot with Jasprit Bumrah terrorising the host batters. It seemed like destiny that India were becoming such a force just as the ICC instituted a World Test Championship. They made the final without much fuss, but when they got there, Kohli chose to go in with two spinners on a green pitch and it backfired big time. A captain who always craved an extra bowling option - to the point that he was continuously willing to sacrifice a batter whether at home or away - went into the biggest Test of his career with one hand tied behind his back. New Zealand beat India and took the crown.
England Take Three
August-September 2021
Kohli has always loved a fast bowler. He loves seeing that speed gun crank up to 140kph and beyond. He's been on the receiving end enough times to know they are game-changing assets. So he wanted one of his own. Actually, he wanted a whole set. Kohli has helped transform this team's outlook on fitness because he wanted players who could deliver top quality stuff even when the tank is empty. And that's what hey got in England in 2021. A series lead of 2-1 was built on spectacular fast bowling displays - led by Bumrah - but before he could officially taste triumph the threat of Covid-19 intervened. India backed out of playing the final match of the series in Manchester after a member of their support staff tested positive.
The end
January 2022
The series was 1-1. South Africa had been set a target of 212 in Cape Town. There had only ever been three successful chases above 200 there. The chances of another happening in deeply bowler friendly conditions and against one of the best attacks in the world were remote. Right? Wrong!
South Africa had already shown themselves capable, chasing down 240 in Johannesburg and they were at it again. The tension was palpable. Kohli himself was adding to it. "Relax guys. I can hear your heartbeat," he said to the batters in the middle.
And then it happened. DRS overturned an lbw given against Dean Elgar, showing the ball to be bouncing over leg stump and India lost it. Everyone from the bowler - R Ashwin - to the captain - Kohli - and the vice-captain - KL Rahul - cried conspiracy. Right into the stump mic so every word could be heard around the world.
South Africa weathered India's rage and won the game. Twenty-four hours later, Kohli resigned as captain.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo