Virat Kohli has announced he will step down as India's T20I captain after the conclusion of the upcoming T20 World Cup. He wants to continue as Test and ODI captain, however.
Kohli announced his decision on Twitter, saying he made it with his workload in mind as a three-format player, and that he has already spoken about it with BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, secretary Jay Shah, and the selectors. He said he arrived at his decision after "a lot of contemplation and discussions with my close people", including India head coach Ravi Shastri and the white-ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma, who has already led India in 19 T20Is when Kohli has been rested.
Though the BCCI is yet to name a successor, Rohit is likely to be the frontrunner.
"Understanding workload is a very important thing and considering my immense workload over the last 8-9 years playing all 3 formats and captaining regularly for last 5-6 years, I feel I need to give myself space to be fully ready to lead the Indian team in Test and ODI Cricket," Kohli said. "I have given everything to the Team during my time as T20 Captain and I will continue to do so for the T20 Team as a batsman moving forward."
The development comes exactly eight days after Kohli sat with the selectors to finalise the India squad for the T20 World Cup, which will be played in the UAE in October-November.
"Of course, arriving at this decision took a lot of time," Kohli said. "After a lot of contemplation and discussions with my close people, Ravi bhai and also Rohit, who have been an essential part of the leadership group, I've decided to step down as the T20 Captain after this T20 World Cup in Dubai in October."
In a BCCI statement, president Ganguly said the decision was made keeping "the future roadmap" in mind.
"Virat has been a true asset for Indian Cricket and has led with aplomb," he said. :He is one of the most successful captains in all the formats. The decision has been made keeping in mind the future roadmap. We thank Virat for his tremendous performance as the T20I Captain. We wish him all the best for the upcoming World Cup and beyond and hope that he continues to score plenty of runs for India."
Shah said he had been in talks with Kohli "for the last six months" over his workload. "I have been in discussions with Virat and the leadership group for the last six months and the decision has been thought through. Virat will continue to contribute as a player and as a senior member of the side in shaping the future course of Indian cricket."
Kohli took charge as T20I captain in 2017 after MS Dhoni stepped down. Kohli has so far led India in 45 T20Is, of which India have won 27, lost 14 and tied two. As captain, he has scored 1502 runs at an average of 48.45 and a strike rate of 143.18, with 12 fifties including a best of 94 not out in a successful chase of 208 against West Indies in Hyderabad.
Since the start of 2017, Kohli has been the third-highest run-getter in T20Is overall, and the highest among India batters ahead of Rohit, who has scored 1500 runs at an average of 33.33 and a strike rate of 148.95.
The timing of the announcement, just over a month before the World Cup begins, as well as the news itself, may have caught many within and outside the India camp by surprise, but Kohli has been mulling over lightening his workload for a while. It's something India's selectors and team management have also kept an eye on, resting Kohli whenever possible from T20Is, to the extent that he has only played 45 of India's 67 matches in the format since taking over as captain.
Not having to worry about the T20I captaincy could also help Kohli focus more on his batting, particularly at a time when he's in the middle of a trough in Test cricket. Since the start of 2020, Kohli has averaged 26.80 over 12 Test matches, and across all formats, he has gone 53 innings without an international hundred.
Kohli would have also been aware of the growing pressure on his captaincy from outside, with numerous pundits including the former India opener Gautam Gambhir suggesting that India need to adopt split captaincy.
Last year, immediately after Rohit led the Mumbai Indians to their fifth IPL title, Gambhir told ESPNcricinfo that would be Indian cricket's "loss" and "misfortune" if Rohit did not get the opportunity to take over the white-ball captaincy.
Gambhir had stressed that Kohli was not a "poor" T20 captain, but contrasted his failure to win an IPL title during his long reign leading the Royal Challengers Bangalore with Rohit's strong record with Mumbai.
"They can also consider split captaincy," Gambhir said. "No one is poor. Rohit has shown in white-ball cricket how big the difference is between his and Virat's captaincy. One player had led his team to five titles, the other hasn't won yet. I'm not saying this because Kohli is a poor captain. But he has received the same platform that Rohit has, so you have to judge both of them on the same parameters. Both have been captains in the IPL for the same length of time. I feel Rohit stands out as a leader."
Kohli's decision also comes close on the heels of the BCCI deciding to appoint Dhoni as the team's mentor for the forthcoming T20 World Cup. While Shah did not provide the exact reason why Dhoni was brought on board, ESPNcricinfo understands that the BCCI wanted to ensure two things: that he could help the leadership group in their planning, and more importantly also play a key role in selections for matches. While India have been highly successful in all three formats under Kohli, they are yet to win a global trophy during his reign, which Ganguly has pointed out in the past. The presence of Dhoni would both lighten Kohli's burden and help Shastri and his coaching staff with planning.