Virat Kohli will step down as Royal Challengers Bangalore captain at the end of the IPL 2021 season.
The news was made public on Sunday evening, while the Chennai Super Kings vs Mumbai Indians game in Dubai was in progress, by the franchise, and came three days after Kohli had announced that he would be giving up the captaincy of India’s T20I team at the end of the World Cup in October-November.
Kohli, who will turn 33 during the World Cup, became the regular captain at Royal Challengers in 2013; he has been a part of the franchise as a player since the inception of the IPL in 2008.
His 132 matches as captain in the IPL is only behind MS Dhoni’s record of 196, and while he has never won the tournament, his best season as a batter was in 2016 when he not only grabbed the orange cap for the most runs but also helped the team reach the final, where they lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad. That was the solitary final for Royal Challengers under Kohli, but they did make the playoffs in 2015 and 2020 too.
In the media statement, Kohli pointed out that it had not been an “easy decision” but that it was taken in the interests of the team. He also reiterated that he would remain with the team “until my retirement from the game of cricket”.
The development came on the eve of Royal Challengers’ first match in the second leg of IPL 2021, against Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi on Monday. They are currently placed third on the points table after a strong start with five wins from seven matches.
ESPNcricinfo has learnt that Kohli had informed people close to him that he had wanted to free himself from the pressures of the planning and strategising that is required from a T20 captain. That led to him stepping down from both the positions, with India and Royal Challengers.
On Sunday, Kohli announced his decision to the Royal Challengers squad before their training session. “I’ve spoken to the squad this evening before the second leg of the tournament starts, to inform everyone that this is going to be my last leg in the IPL as captain of RCB,” Kohli said in a video message put out by the franchise on social media.
“I spoke to the management this evening, something that was on my mind for a while, as I recently announced stepping down from [India] T20 captaincy as well to manage my workload, which has been immense over the last so many years.
“And I want to be able to be continue to be committed to the responsibilities that I’m fulfilling and I felt I needed this space to refresh, to regroup and be absolutely clear in how I want to move forward. And also understanding that RCB is going to go through a transitional phase with the big auction coming in next year.”
Going by Kohli’s statement, it would seem that Royal Challengers would retain him before the 2022 auction.
“I’ve made it clear to the management that I can’t think of being in any other team than RCB and that has been my commitment from day one,” Kohli said.
“I will continue to be an RCB player till I play my last game in the IPL. But it’s been a great journey of nine years of joy, frustration, moments of happiness and sadness, and I just want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and believing in me relentlessly and unconditionally.
“And I will continue to be committed to play for this franchise as I said till the last day of me playing IPL… for you guys, for the fans, because of what you’ve done for me and how you’ve made me feel over the last so many years that is going to stay with me for the rest of my life.
“So thank you so much, this is just a little halt, it’s not the end of the journey. The journey will continue and it will continue the same way that it has for so many years. Thank you.”
So far, under Kohli, Royal Challengers have won 62 of their 132 matches while losing 66. While his captaincy and tactical acumen have always been questioned, Kohli never let that affect his batting: no one in IPL history has hit more than the five centuries he has, or topped his tally of 33 half-centuries as captain.
He also leads the tally of run-scorers overall, with 6076 runs – from 191 innings, at an average of 37.97 and strike rate of 130.41 – and that of captains, with 4674 runs at an average of 43.27 and a strike rate of 134.11.
Kohli, one of the highest-paid players in the IPL, started his journey with the Royal Challengers right after leading India to the Under-19 World Cup title in 2008, and played under Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid before taking charge.