The Virat Kohli decade: 20K and counting
On Wednesday, the India captain Virat Kohli went where no one has before — scoring his 20,000th run in 10 years, across formats.Updated: Aug 16, 2019 11:24 IST
On January 5, 2010, Virat Kohli walked out to bat for India at the fall of opener Gautam Gambhir’s wicket. This was at the tri-nations ODI tournament in Dhaka, and Gambhir had perished at the end of the third over against Sri Lanka. In the following over, bowled by Suranga Lakmal, Kohli whipped the third ball he faced through square leg to get off the mark. That single was of no consequence to either Kohli or India in a match they ultimately lost by five wickets. But that run would prove to be of extreme significance to a cricketing decade defined by the sport’s latest (and perhaps greatest) superstar.
That single was the proverbial first step in a journey of a thousand miles. On Wednesday, the India captain went where no one has before — scoring his 20,000th run in 10 years, across formats — with a dab off Kemar Roach for four through third man to move from 95 to 99 at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain. The 96th run rolled his aggregate for the decade past the 20K mark, leaving the previous record-holder—Ricky Ponting with 18,962 in the 2000s — well in his wake. And the following ball — a clip off his pads—brought up his second ODI hundred in a row, the fifth of the year and 42nd of the decade (he has 43 overall, the first of which was struck a week before the start of the 2010s).
These are phenomenal numbers; Beamonesque in its leap. Consider this: Sachin Tendulkar, a run-accumulator of whose like we assumed we would never see again, hit his 100 hundreds over a span of 23 years—from his first one at Old Trafford to his final one in Dhaka. Kohli has raced to 68 international hundreds in less than 10 years. There is only a sprinkle of truth to the theory that Kohli, unlike heavy run-getters across specific decades such as Ponting and Jacques Kallis (16,777 in the 2000s), had a third international format in T20Is to score runs in. And it is also true that even in the shortest format, Kohli is the leading run-getter for this decade. But they account for only 2369 of those runs. Given that there are still four-and-a-half months left in this decade and at least seven Test matches and a fistful of ODIs, he would have reeled in the leading lights without the crutch of T20I runs anyway.
Back to Dhaka and India’s first game of this decade, a day Kohli had scored just 8 runs. But when he followed it up with 91, 71 not out and 102 not out in the next three matches of the tournament, a young Kohli was but warning the world of what was to come with his hunger and consistency. He finished that year with 995 ODI runs, one of only three years in this decade when the four-figure mark eluded him. Again we turn to Tendulkar’s numbers to put Kohli’s existence in perspective. Across the 24 years he played ODI cricket, Tendulkar breached the 1000-run year on seven occasions. Kohli is already on the same number within this decade, with 1000-run years in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and now 2019.
This year could well have witnessed the first 2000-run ODI calendar, given Kohli’s form and the fact that it was a World Cup year (with a conducive, minimum nine-match format for run-making). But Kohli ended up stringing together a bunch of fifties and not hundreds—which in his lofty standards is considered below average. Now, despite normal service resuming in terms of Kohli’s century-making abilities, the wait for the 2000-run ODI year spills over into the next decade.
First Published: Aug 15, 2019 22:07 IST