Happy Birthday Virat Kohli: Five knocks that have shaped India captain’s legacy
Over the last decade, no one batsman has climbed higher or gained more reputation than Virat Kohli, the current captain of the Indian team. Since his debut in 2008, Kohli has stamped his authority to be regarded as one of, if not the best, batsmen of the contemporary era. Due to his consistency and class, Kohli is being spoken in the same breath as Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, two cricketers with the biggest fan base in India. Among Indian batsmen, Kohli has the best ever Test, ODI and T20I rating with 937, 911 and 897 points respectively. As far as records go, Kohli, with 42 tons, is next only to the great Tendulkar in terms of leading century-makers in ODIs and holds the record for being the fastest batsman to reach 8000, 9000, 10000 and 11000 runs in ODIs.
On the occasion of Kohli’s 32nd birthday, we take a trip down memory lane to revisit the five most epic knocks of his career, which established him as a batting epitome.
1. Hurricane in Hobart (133* vs Sri Lanka, 2012)
Despite having scored eight centuries leading up to this contest against Sri Lanka, it was in Hobart during the 2012 CB series that Kohli really came of age. With India in the middle of a sloppy campaign having being blanked in the Test series 0-4 and enduring not the greatest of tri-series, Kohli played the innings of a lifetime. Kohli dished out a memorable assault en route to scoring an unbeaten 133 off just 86 balls to help India gun down 321 runs in less than 37 overs. His treatment of Lasith Malinga was the stuff of legends. He took the yorker specialist for 24 runs in an over in perhaps the most dominating batting performance seen against him.
2. Asia Cup classic (183 vs Pakistan, 2012, Dhaka)
Rarely do things get bigger than an India-Pakistan match. Just months after Kohli had ripped the skin off Sri Lanka, the batsman, playing his second Asia Cup tournament, rose to the big occasion and peeled off a match-winning century. With Pakistan posting 329/6 and India losing opening batsman Gautam Gambhir without a run on board, in walked Kohli and took some time before he punished a rather decent Pakistan bowling attack. Kohli hit 22 fours and a six to score a career-best 183, grabbing the bowlers by the scruff of their neck and seeing India through inside 48 overs. He was ably supported by half-centuries from Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma.
3. Mohali epic (82* vs Australia, 2016 World T20)
2016 was one of Kohli’s best years in international cricket, and with the World T20 World Cup being played in India, the batsman’s eyes lit up. He emerged as the Man of the Series in the tournament but his innings against Australia during a Super 10 match stood out.
Kohli had already taken India to a win against Pakistan with a testing half-century but it was his knock in Mohali that catapulted him as a T20 great. Chasing 161 to win and with India in a bit of a spot at 49/3, Kohli and Yuvraj Singh started rebuilding the innings. Once Yuvraj was out with India on 94/4, Kohli channelled his inner beast to stage a beautiful partnership with MS Dhoni. Kohli reached his fifty but it wasn’t the biggest highlight of the match. Already labelled as India’s ‘Master of the Chase,’ he ran between the wickets like a maniac and with 39 to get off three, launched James Faulkner for 14 off the first three. Next over, Kohli clattered Nathan Coulter-Night for three fours in the over to bring the equation down to four needed off the final over. Dhoni hit the winning runs but the sight of Kohli falling on the ground and soaking the moment showed how much it meant to him.
4. Burying the ghosts of England (149 vs England, Birmingham, 2018)
After the nightmarish tour of England in 2014, where he averaged a poor 13.50, Kohli redeemed himself when he led India to the country four years later. But this time around, Kohli led from the front and ended the five-Test series with an average of 59.30, scoring 593 runs. In the first Test of the series, Kohli batted with great grit and determination to score 149 – while not other Indian batsman could go past 26. It was an inning where he was engaged in an attritional battle with James Anderson, his nemesis from the previous tour. In the third Test, Kohli peeled off scores of 97 and 103, and even though India lost the series 1-4, Kohli was able to bury the ghosts of his traumatic past.
5. Achieving batting nirvana in Adelaide (115 and 141 vs Australia, 2014)
Kohli, in his first Test as captain, nearly saw India home had it not been for one of India’s famous collapses. In the absence of Dhoni, who was nursing a finger injury, Kohli scored twin centuries in Adelaide, his knock of 115 in the first innings leading India’s strong reply of 444 to Australia’s 517/7 declared. In the second innings, Australia declared on 290/5, setting India 362 runs to get. Kohli anchored another fighting knock of 141, and along with Murali Vijay, took India to 242/2, a stage where they looked likely to grab an early 1-0 lead. But off-spinner Nathan Lyon claimed 7/152 and in the process, triggered one of India’s worst batting collapses, which saw them lose eight wickets for 73 runs to be bowled out for 315.