Virat Kohli Roars Back to Form
The fans are overjoyed, the critics silenced
It was a match of no consequence. The opponents, Afghanistan were not very strong, the conditions were perfect for batting. All this does not matter. Virat Kohli roared back to form and that was enough for his fans to celebrate and silence his critics.
If it was a pressure free match there was still enough pressure on him, for it was a long time coming, that hundred on Thursday. For a player who used to notch up hundreds with almost ridiculous ease, a gap of 1020 days since his last international century, against Bangladesh in the day/night Test at Kolkata in November 2019, was hard to take.
There he was batting commandingly with 70 hundreds against his name and in hot pursuit of Sachin Tendulkar's record tally of 100 hundreds. He was performing with a consistency that made him the only batsman to average 50 plus in all three formats.
And then suddenly there was a barren run. The kind that happens to the careers of even the greatest of batsmen. Only in Kohli's case the run continued for an inordinate long time, enough to cause concern among the Indian cricketing fraternity. Thursday's 100 in fact was his first after 129 innings across formats.
In Tests, ODIs and T-20s, Kohli was repeatedly out for low scores and there were quite a few ducks too. There were never any doubts about age catching up with him for Kohli who turns 34 in a couple of months' time was not rusty. It was not that his reflexes had become slow or that he had lost his hunger for runs after 14 years of non-stop international cricket.
But try as he might, the big scores eluded him until that glorious hundred against Afghanistan at the Asia Cup. That took his tally finally to 71 placing him alongside Ricky Ponting. It surely is only a matter of time before he goes past the Aussie great. Then he will have a clear sight of Tendulkar's record.
That may still be beyond him for while he is almost certain to get past the great man's tally of 49 ODI hundreds – Kohli has 43 – it will be impossible even for someone like Kohli to get near Tendulkar's 51 Test hundreds as right now the figure against his name is 27. But even if he finishes second to Tendulkar in the overall tally – which he will – it will be a big feather in Kohli's cap.
Incidentally the century on Thursday was Kohli's first T-20 international hundred. To add to his considerable list of records his 122 is the highest score by an Indian in T-20 internationals surpassing Rohit Sharma's 118 scored against Sri Lanka in 2017. Most importantly, having got the monkey off his back there is every reason to believe that Kohli will put the extended barren run behind him and no2 notch up one big score after another.
As we all know, Kohli is mentally strong, and once he sets certain goals he sees to it that he reaches there, sooner or later. It has taken him some time to shrug off the series of low scores and one is somehow confident that we will now see King Kohli back at his glorious best. And there could not be a happier augury with the T-20 World Cup round the corner!
Form is temporary, class is permanent goes the well-known sporting cliché. And that is what Kohli's supporters were chanting when the calls to drop him from the team grew louder. It is well known that when Kohli does well India does well.
His is a commanding presence at the crease as befitting an all-time Indian great, probably the only current player who would talk into an all-time greatest Indian XI in all formats. However unacceptable his on field behaviour is sometimes as a batsman, Kohli is in a league of his own. He has the unique honour of being the Wisden leading cricketer of the year three years in a row and this at a time when the game has produced a number of outstanding cricketers.
Kohli's biggest asset has always been his temperament. This has helped him to become a successful Indian captain though not everyone has approved of his ultra-combative and fractious demeanour. But as he famously once said "I will not ask anyone to do anything I will not do myself,'' while touching upon his ability to lead from the front and in keeping with his exalted status as the team's leading cricketer.
As a batsman though this strong temperament has stood him in very good stead for he is least overawed by a bowler's reputation or the precarious position his side is in. He plays his strokes freely,even with gay abandon befitting someone who is confidence personified. There is little doubt that the Indian team will benefit greatly from a Kohli in full form and happily the latest hundred with which he broke the run drought in style is an encouraging sign.