Virat Kohli took over India's Test captaincy during India's tour of Australia in 2014-15 after MS Dhoni retired from the longest format. But it was only in 2018 that Kohli embarked on the biggest captaincy assignment of his career. With overseas Test series against South Africa, England, and Australia, 2018-19 season was nothing short of baptism by fire for the young Indian side led by the fiery Delhi lad.
Series defeats against Proteas and Poms despite some valiant fights seriously dented the image of the 'new-look' Indian side but they eventually emerged as warriors after a historic Test series win Down Under in Australia. The journey was also wrapped with numerous significant ODI series wins and Asia Cup win. More importantly, the current Indian side has carved out a distinct identity for itself, which is known for playing an aggressive brand of cricket.
Kohli, who admirably led India during the difficult phase, termed the period as 'challenging' in an interview with Cricbuzz but also added that the results have left him 'very proud'.
“It's been a challenging year and one that has left us very proud of the way we carried ourselves. To head to the toughest of destinations with a young but fiercely proud bunch was amazing. That's precisely how we have approached every big series that we played between January 2018 and now. We were very clear about what we wanted to do as team and where we want to head,” Kohli said.
One of the main reasons behind India's successful run and domination of world cricket is the solid partnership between Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri. While Shastri is perceived as a yes-man to Kohli by many, the Indian captain feels the duo's work has allowed the team to change its culture.
"It's gone into a sort of an auto-mode now and the reason is because of the work that's been put in over the last 15-odd months. Culture management has been the calling card and that's something the team management has been particularly convinced about... The guys have responded to it beautifully. It's a different picture that's been posted outside. Within the team, we know the mindset we carry. We're going with a group of people and this is not about individuals. This is everybody's effort," Kohli said.
Another person on whom Kohli relies heavily is former captain MS Dhoni. With the World Cup fast approaching, Dhoni has been identified as an indispensable member of the team, courtesy his lightning-quick wicket-keeping skills, finishing panache and supercomputer cricketing brain. However, Dhoni also had to cope a fair share of criticism lately for his waning power-hitting skills and struggle to rotate strikes in limited overs cricket.
Kohli, however, termed all the criticism unfortunate and said that Dhoni's presence allows the captain to do his thing.
"That's unfortunate. Honestly, I think people lack patience. An odd day here, a poor one there, and chatter becomes endless. But the fact is that MS Dhoni is among the smartest guys in the game. Behind the stumps, as I said, he's priceless. It gives me the freedom to do my thing. Someone like MS is around with a wealth of experience," said the India captain.
The 30-yeard-old also put the historic Test series win in Australia at par with the 2011 World Cup. While he regarded the ODI tournament as the "most important," Kohli added that the challenges of five-day cricket and the rarity of the win also make the Test triumph special.