Who is better: Kohli or Sharma? Comparing the two captaincy records

MS Dhoni is arguably the best captain to have ever led India in the history of cricket. In fact, he is the only captain in the world to win all three ICC tournaments – ODI World Cup, T20 World Cup and Champions Trophy.

Since he stepped down from the role, Virat Kohli took over while Rohit Sharma played deputy to him, stepping whenever the former wasn’t available.

However, with time, Kohli’s captaincy tactics began to fail and soon after he gave up the T20I captaincy after the World Cup in 2021, he was also asked to move aside from the ODI captaincy and soon he also gave up the Test captaincy.

Rohit was soon named at the helm across all formats and has been leading for quite some time now.

All Rohit Sharma's centuries

While Kohli was one of the best captains for India, Rohit Sharma has been brilliant so far with his tactics. Who is better Kohli or Sharma? This is one of the questions that is always doing the rounds on social media. With the latter played his 100th international game as captain of India on October 29 against England, we compare the captaincy record of both superstars of Indian cricket.

Here, we hope to get the answer to the much-debated question – Who is better, Kohli or Sharma?

Who is better Kohli or Sharma
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Kohli captaincy records

Virat Kohli was vice-captain to MS Dhoni for quite some time and interestingly, he got the mantle of Test captaincy with the latter surprisingly retiring in December 2014. This is when the new era began for India, especially in the longest format. Dhoni gave up the white-ball captaincy at the start of 2017, and even though Kohli had stepped in as stand-in captain on multiple occasions, he got the role full-time in 2017. 

Kohli Test record as captain

Virat Kohli as India’s Test captain, was a superstar. He changed the face of Indian cricket in the format and, most importantly, backed the pace bowlers who were struggling earlier in the SENA countries – South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia.

The likes of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, among a few others’ careers, boomed during his time as captain of the Indian Test team.

Moreover, India also became the first-ever team from Asia to win a Test series in Australia in the 2018-19 season. The same team went on to create history in the 2020-21 tour Down Under as well, winning the Test series 2-1, especially after being shot out for 36 Test in the Adelaide Test (first Test), which they lost badly.

However, the series win had come under Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy, with Kohli leaving the team post the first Test debacle for the birth of his child.

Virat Kohli centuries: List of ODI, Test & IPL centuries

Under Kohli, India started playing with courage in Test cricket and made possible overseas wins in almost every tour. Overall, Virat Kohli led India in 68 Test matches, the sixth most in history, and went on to win 40 out of those.

India lost only 17 red-ball matches with him as captain, with 11 Tests ending in a draw. Hands down, he is the best Indian captain in terms of these statistics, as Kohli won 58.82% of Test matches as captain.

Kohli’s record as Test captain:

Matches – 68

Won – 40

Lost – 17

Draw – 11

Who is better Kohli or Sharma
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Kohli record as ODI captain

The former India skipper was India’s captain in ODIs for a massive 95 matches and the men in blue won home and away bilateral series for fun during that period.

Though Kohli officially took over ODI captaincy from Dhoni in 2017, he first led India in the format back in 2013. With captaincy, Kohli’s form with the bat also went a notch up as the team dominated almost every team in bilateral series. 

It was unfortunate for them that India’s ODI team led by Virat Kohli didn’t win a single ICC event. India lost to Pakistan in the final of the Champions Trophy in 2017 and were knocked out by New Zealand in the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup.

As far as his captaincy record in ODIs is concerned, Kohli won a massive 65 ODIs out of 95 as captain and lost only 27, with one ending in a tie and two with no result.

A massive win percentage of 68.42 as captain is the second-best in the history of ODIs, only behind Ricky Ponting and Hansie Cronje, who enjoyed a win percentage of 71.73 during their captaincy tenure.

Kohli record as ODI captain

Matches – 95

Won – 65

Lost – 27

Tie – 1

NR – 2

Kohli record as T20I captain

Well, who is better Kohli or Sharma? This debate began with this format, interestingly, not with the T20I format but in the T20 form, in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

With no trophy to show as the captain of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), pressure kept increasing on Virat Kohli despite having spotless record as India’s T20I captain.

The cricketer from Delhi led India in the shortest format of the game in 50 matches and won 30 matches while losing 16 of them. Two matches ended in a tie, while a couple of other matches ended in no result.

Kohli led India in T20Is from 2017 to 2021 and ended on a pretty sour note as the team also lost to Pakistan for the first time in a World Cup game in any format.

India could not make it to the semifinals of the T20 World Cup 2021 that took place in Dubai and that was the start of Kohli’s end as India’s captain.

Virat Kohli captaincy record

Rohit captaincy record

Rohit Sharma played the role of vice-captain to Kohli in ODIs and T20Is for a long period.

Perhaps, when Kohli used to take rest on ‘less important’ tours, Rohit did a fine job leading the team and even won the Nidahas trophy, the tri-series that involved Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the island nation.

He was nowhere close to even making the Test side before becoming the opener in 2019, which turned things around for him in the longest format.

However, the man from Mumbai took over as India’s captaincy full-time in controversial circumstances, with Kohli being sidelined hastily in ODIs with selectors stating that there can’t be two white-ball captains.

After a few stormy days, things have finally settled down under his leadership.

Well, then, who is better Kohli or Sharma? For those asking this question, let us look at Rohit’s numbers as India’s captain.

Rohit Test record as captain

It wasn’t a good time for Indian cricket as the Kohli-Ganguly controversy was still fresh.

The former had just resigned suddenly as Test captain after a tough series loss to South Africa away from home. It came close on the heels of the ODI captaincy controversy.

After pondering on several options, the selectors and BCCI decided to make Rohit Sharma the captain of the Test side as well.

India were in the middle of a World Test Championship cycle and the man did well in the short period as India qualified for the final for the second consecutive time.

However, yet again, India came second in the title clash as they lost to Australia, as the wait for the elusive ICC trophy continued. 

Having said that, Rohit is pretty young as far as his Test captaincy is concerned.

He has led India in Tests in nine matches so far, winning five and losing two, including the WTC final, while two matches ended in draws. Moreover, India won three Test matches by an innings, while one of the wins came by a huge margin of 238 runs against Sri Lanka. 

Rohit Test record as captain

Matches Played – 9

Won – 5

Lost – 2

Draw – 2

Rohit record as ODI captain

Rohit Sharma made his ODI captaincy debut back in December 2017 when Sri Lanka toured India and he lost the first game as the captain by seven wickets in Dharamsala.

However, India bounced back to win the next two matches by 141 runs and 8 wickets as Rohit won his first ODI series as captain.

He then took India to a famous Asia Cup win in 2018 when Kohli was rested. He then led the men in blue twice in 2019 before taking over full-time in February 2022 at home against the West Indies.

Since then, he and the new coaching staff led by head coach Rahul Dravid built the side for World Cup 2023. The team faced a lot of setbacks with injuries to key players but is looking solid at the moment in the ongoing World Cup.

As far as Rohit Sharma’s record as ODI captain is concerned, he has won 30 out of 40 matches while losing on nine occasions and one match ended in no result. This is a decent record but the most significant prize Rohit will be eyeing now the World Cup which India are the favourites to win with the way they are playing.

Rohit record as ODI captain

Matches Played – 40

Won – 30

Lost – 9

NR – 1

Rohit record as T20I captain

Now comes the most interesting part! This is the format where – who is better Kohli or Sharma – debate started, especially on social media among the fans. Rohit Sharma was winning trophies for fun with Mumbai Indians (MI) in the IPL even as Virat Kohli was not able to do so as the captain of RCB.

As soon as Virat announced that he will be stepping down as India captain after the T20 World Cup 2021, there was only one name doing the rounds, and it was Rohit, thanks to his excellent record in IPL.

But like they say, international cricket is an altogether different ball, and Rohit Sharma and Indian fans learnt it the hard way in the T20 World Cup 2022 that happened in Australia. While the team did well to make it to the semi-final, they were thumped by England by 10 wickets in the knockout game.

Coming back to Rohit Sharma’s record as T20I captain, he has led India in a massive 51 T20Is so far. He has been leading the team since December 2017 before taking over full-time in November 2021 and has won a total of 39 matches so far while losing 12.

Interestingly, Rohit hasn’t played a single T20I since the semi-final loss to England last year in T20 World Cup.

Hardik Pandya has been leading India in the shortest format since then. It is still not clear if Rohit is willing to play the format again and feature in the T20 World Cup next year in the USA and West Indies. If yes, then he will be playing as a captain.

Now then, looking at the statistics, who is better Kohli or Sharma? Let us find out as we conclude.

Who is better Kohli or Sharma
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Who is better Kohli or Sharma?

Who is better Kohli or Sharma? Well a real Indian fan will be sensible in answering this question. There shouldn’t be any comparison in the first place, as both of them are India superstars.

Also, in terms of captaincy, it would be unfair to both of them if they are compared as Kohli led India for a long time while Rohit is still fairly young as India’s captain.

Yes, he first became the captain in ODIs and T20Is in 2017 but he was appointed full time at the helm only in 2022.

Unfortunately, Rohit doesn’t have much time left in his career as well but looking at the overall numbers, a win percentage of 73.73 after 99 matches as captain certainly paint a good picture.

Kohli led India in 213 international matches and won 135 of those to boast of a win percentage 63.38. Though the win percentage of Kohli is less compared to Rohit, the longevity of his captaincy is a crucial point here and to be fairly honest, Rohit won’t be able to lead India for such a long time.

So the answer for the question – who is better Kohli or Sharma is – both!


Rohit is an experienced cricket writer based in India