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A Virat Kohli hundred: Tests on and off the field

Last updated on 02 Mar 2022 | 01:43 PM
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A Virat Kohli hundred: Tests on and off the field

We decode Virat Kohli’s journey to a hundred Tests for India

Until 2011, Indian cricket was still basking in the glory of Sachin Tendulkar, praising the magical leader that was MS Dhoni. But what happened that year was going to change the face of Indian cricket for the good -- the debut of Virat Kohli.

A young 22-year-old flamboyant and charismatic cricketer made his Test debut at Kingston. Over the next 11 years, that Delhiite not only changed the dynamics of Indian cricket, but has contributed substantially to the growing love for Test cricket among young cricketers. Barring his antics on the field, Kohli is a cricketer for the lifetime, a genuine face of modern-day cricket.

To quote Ravi Shastri from Vijay Lokapally's “Driven”, “Kohli became the throbbing heart of the long-lived sport – cricket.” Kohli became a leader with exceptional vision, a man who could withstand any pressure, commanding any situation with some maturity. Let us keep records aside for a minute, because that is a discussion for a lifetime.

"Cricket captains will always be spoken about with respect to their records and the kind of triumphs they managed, but your legacy as a captain will stand for the kind of benchmarks you have set,” tweeted Ravichandran Ashwin after Kohli’s announcement to step down from Test captaincy.

The enormity of talent that Kohli possessed wasn’t natural, it had only dawned gradually and unlike several talented cricketers in the country, he had to bring out the technical assiduousness, combined with fitness.

Kohli’s mind-bending record as a batter

Since Kohli’s debut, barring Steve Smith, no other cricketer has scored as many Test centuries (27). For a minimum of 99 Tests, no other Test cricketer averages more than Kohli (50.39). On his debut as Test skipper, against Australia in 2014, the now 33-year-old joined the rare company of Greg Chappell as the second skipper to score twin centuries (115 and 141).

As a captain in the longest format (minimum 50 matches), the former Indian skipper has the highest average (54.8), including scoring the second-most centuries (20) in Test cricket. Kohli is also one of the three cricketers to score double centuries against six different Test opponents (Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies).

A charismatic leader with numbers

While leading his side, the right-hander is also the fastest to 4000 and 5000 Test runs, surpassing Brian Lara for the former milestone and Ricky Ponting for the latter. He is also one of the only two captains to score double hundreds in consecutive Test innings, 213 against Sri Lanka in Nagpur and 243 in Delhi. Alongside that, the 33-year-old has scored the most Test double centuries as a captain (7). 

As India’s skipper, Kohli has the most wins in the longest format, 13 more than previous best, MS Dhoni. His win-record percentage of 58.8 is also unparalleled in Indian cricket. He also has the highest Test wins for an Indian captain, away from home, at 16.

In fact, Kohli’s win-percentage as a captain (58.8) is only behind the Australian pair of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. Leading from the front, the Indian sides under Kohli managed rare feats, with series wins against Sri Lanka, Australia (twice) and West Indies, away from home.

Not afraid to learn

While his start to Test cricket was jittery, the series in 2014 against England was an eye-opener for Kohli, the Test cricketer. His technique, time and again, against the swinging ball was questioned, his over-aggressiveness with the bat was duly put down as a negative trait and the critics came down hunting.

“Brash, arrogant, undisciplined,” as Lokapally puts it, was how critics defined Kohli in 2014. His body language was down and out, the scores were reflective of that fact, and the series was largely going to become a defining point of Kohli’s career.

Having just scored 134 runs in 2014, Kohli returned to England as almost a completely different cricketer, whose technique against the moving ball, succinctly. In 2018, the now 33-year-old scored 593 runs, averaging nearly five times from 2014, while in over 1025 deliveries, he showed a different side of himself.

It wasn’t just England, in Australia, the right-hander completely took the home fans by surprise. The generally hostile Australian crowd turned face, to a standing ovation after Kohli’s fearless innings. In just 25 innings, 13 less than Sachin, Kohli has amassed 1352 runs, second-most for an Indian batter. As witnessed in Australia, Kohli’s brand of cricket was never for a draw, it was always to ‘drive’ a result out of the game.

Kohli: the movement in Indian cricket

What makes Kohli’s 100th Test more significant to the context of world cricket is his dedication and his influence on the longest format. Since becoming the face of Indian cricket, the now 33-year-old has time and again fought for the health of the longest format of the game, championing for the cause of the game’s dying format.

“Wins are just a result and the seeds are always sown well before the harvest! The seeds you managed to sow is the kind of standard you set for yourself and hence set the expectations straight with the rest of us,” Ashwin said in the same tweet.

Kohli is single-handedly responsible for India’s Test dominance, he inherited a side that was languishing at seventh in the ICC Test Rankings in 2014. Over the next three years, via the consistent dominance at home, India regained their position as the No.1 ranked Test side.

Since 2017, India have held the No.1 ranking for five consecutive years. In the same time frame, the mentality of the national team had shifted towards working actively on fitness, building a side that could play a longer stretch of games without fatigue. 

Not just that, Kohli as a batter, starting from his Adelaide knock in 2014, has seen a mindset change amongst the Indian crowd regarding Test cricket. In times when Test cricket faces an uncertain future, Kohli stood as the flag-bearer for the format.

Be it about which venues would host the games in the country, or be it him batting for a rotation policy to counter mental fatigue, the 33-year-old has always been one for the cause. In reality, Kohli isn’t the one to change himself just for the sake of it.

Championing for the Test cause

"It can't be sporadic and spread over so many places where people turn up or they don't, so in my opinion, absolutely. You should have five strong Test centers so that teams coming to India know that this is where they're going to play,” Kohli said, after the conclusion of the Ranchi Test, against South Africa.

Ahead of Kohli’s 100th Test, the question was always how the crowd would react to it. Having championed the involvement of more crowds in the country, it is only fitting that there was an overturn from no crowd to allowing 50% spectators in Mohali.

“Cricket is a simple game, sometimes played by complicated characters,” as Lokapally puts it out, Kohli is a complicated character but with only positive connotations.

Kohli has brought about a revolution in Indian cricket, in the longest format, that several cricketers in the past could only imagine. So, when the Delhi-born cricketer takes the field on Friday, he would not only be playing with the crowd but elevating the health of Test cricket to greater levels. 

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