In India, cricket is not like any other sport. You must experience it to know it. This isn’t hyperbole. Some people do base their lives on the sport. And not many can handle the burden of carrying this nation’s hope and still perform.
Kohli’s love for the game started from a very young age. When students changed schools for better education, he changed cricket academies for better coaching. He gradually progressed through the ranks and started establishing himself at the domestic level.
Kohli’s transformation from boy to man, though, occurred overnight. On December 18, 2006, Kohli (18) was part of the team playing for Delhi against Karnataka. But the unimaginable happened that night. His father passed away. Cricket should have become secondary to his grief, but Kohli played on. He continued from his overnight score of 40*, scored 90 from 238 balls and helped save Delhi from defeat. All this on the day of his father’s funeral.
He improved his game and fitness at an exponential rate. He would go on to master the art of chasing. He once mauled Lasith Malinga, scoring 24 runs in an over, before going on to script a famous victory for India at Hobart. A few hundreds here and there, artistic batting, unreal dedication, ruthless aggression all became Kohli’s identity. The metamorphosis into what he is today slowly surfaced. Kohli is always beautiful to watch when he bats; he has good posture, he leans into his drives, he times his shots very well and seems to know exactly which shot to play to every ball.
If people had any doubts about Kohli’s test supremacy, he answered it to a great extent during the Australia Tour in 2014/15. The first test at Adelaide, was a not a normal test. Phillip Hughes, tragically passed away, doing what he loves, batting, days before the test. The entire sporting world was moved. Grown, hard men were crying. Cricket was looked at differently. It was not normal scenes at Adelaide. Kohli, however had a brilliant test series. A Mitchell Johnson bouncer hit his helmet. It didn’t do much damage to Kohli. But the same can’t be said for the Australians. It made the beast in him soar high. Some of his cover drives were a thing of beauty. The MCG and SCG tests were no different. He was indomitable.
For a nation of more than a billion cricket lovers, who have grown up watching the game with great gusto, we have, inadvertently, shown a lop-sided interest towards batsmen. Not going through the pain of listing them all down here, as we have had many of them, who have dominated our cricketing conscience so far and continue to do so.
Virat Kohli has added a new dimension to that consciousness, he has used his high-levels of fitness to bolster his temperament, talent, and performance and in the process, has changed the way cricket is played in India or in the sub-continent for that matter.
While he ticks all the boxes for a typical Indian batting great technique-wise, he also has quite remarkably managed to infuse the ‘fitness’ angle into his game, which was not adequately stressed upon by the cricketers of the previous era, especially the sub-continent cricketers. Today, Virat Kohli epitomizes almost all those qualities that we generally associate with a high-performance athlete. Talent, passion, aggressive intent and, above all, fitness are the four pillars on which his game firmly rests.
His form since 2015 has been legendary. WC 2015 Innings vs Pakistan was a testimony to that. His T20 WC was a lesson to all the grooming youngsters. A mind-boggling 973 runs under his belt, with 4 centuries helped Kohli cement his place as a modern-day great.
IPL-2016 was his playground. He owned the stage. He reached the zenith of his career. He took us with him. We danced when he won. We cried when he lost. We slept peacefully when he was working out strategies and ideas for next day’s game. Every tour hence has only further established his supremacy.
Life begins at 30 for a cricketer. He will have his fair share of ups and downs. Hopefully there are more ups than downs. His supreme fitness will be tested. His leadership qualities will be doubted. Injuries will take a toll on his form. But this bloke is a phoenix. He laughs at adversaries. He revels in tough situations.
Virat Kohli is an amazingly skilled batsman, he has quite exceptionally so far capitalized on his batting abilities and has managed to single-handedly win matches for India. His knack for timing the ball and placing them through the gaps is quite remarkable, those sumptuous drives through the covers almost invariably past the fielders are a feast to the eyes, for most cricket-buffs. Kohli stands rigid with an air of solidity, but his stance allows a comfortable swing of the arms through the line of the ball – in a manner that is not so easy for other top-class batsmen.
If Virat Kohli is a brilliant role model for young Indian athletes on the virtues of being physically fit and in peak condition, he is perhaps an even greater example of how you need oodles of mental fortitude to succeed in the highest level of the game. India’s ICC World T20 2016 match against Australia, where Virat Kohli anchored an incredible run-chase to get the last 39 runs off just 2.1 overs, was a perfect example of how Kohli’s immense mental strength comes to the fore when India are under huge pressure and need an injection of world-class quality to save them from a defeat.
The amount of cricket that is being played today is frenetic. Cricketers are increasingly complaining about tight schedules and excessive workload, which is taking a toll on their desire to performance consistently, but not quite for Virat Kohli: he plays all the three formats for India and does it with equal aplomb.
To step on to the field, each and every time with an equal amount of intensity and hunger to perform is what makes Virat Kohli a cut above the rest.
The Virat Kohli Decade
2011 – 2011 can be termed as a special year for Virat Kohli. For a young man who was yet to turn 23, became a World Cup winner. He scored 282 runs in the tournament and scored a ton in the opening game. He also scored a crucial 35 in the final against Sri Lanka. He amassed more than 1300 ODI runs which included four hundreds and eight fifties in 2011.
2012 – In 2012, Kohli showed that he has the ability to do well in Test cricket as well. He scored three hundreds and averaged close to 50 that year in Tests. On a disastrous tour to Australia in 2011-12, Virat Kohli just came into his own. He struck his maiden Test hundred at Adelaide. He struck five hundreds that year in ODI cricket. Two of them stood out. 133 against Sri Lanka when India had to chase down 320 in 40 overs and 183 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup.
2013 – Virat Kohli stamped his authority as the chase master. For the third consecutive year, he scored more than 1000 runs in ODI cricket. He scored an important 43 in the final of the Champions Trophy. In Test cricket, he scored a ton against Australia at home and also made some small contributions on rank turners.
2014 – 2014 saw the transformation of Virat Kohli. He saw the extreme ends of the game where he just couldn’t score anything in England to scoring heavily in Australia. Barring that entire tour of England, Kohli had a decent year. He almost single-handedly won the World T20 for India. He was the Man of the Series in that World T20. He made his captaincy debut in the first Test in MS Dhoni’s absence. He struck twin centuries and almost took India home in that first Test.
2015 – In 2015, he took over as full-time Test captain after MS Dhoni announced his retirement mid-way through the four-match Test series in Australia. He did score a couple of hundreds but overall, Kohli didn’t have a great 2015 as a batsman.
2016 – In 2016, Kohli was back to his normal self, scoring out runs and hundreds at will. He scaled some unbelievable peaks in T20 cricket. He scored a staggering 973 runs in the IPL which included 4 hundreds. He scored three double tons in Test cricket in a year where he scaled 1000 runs in a year for the first time in his Test career. He averaged more than 75 in every format in 2016.
2017 – Kohli was handed the captaincy in all formats after MS Dhoni stepped down before the first series in 2017. He led from the front and kept scoring runs. He scored 12 international tons in 2017 and his consistency continued. The one thing that didn’t go Kohli’s way was the Champions Trophy loss. It took him quite a time to move on from that loss.
2018 – 2018 saw Virat Kohli be the one-man army, especially in Test cricket. In South Africa and England, he has carried the Indian batting line-up alone and has been India’s best batsman in ODI cricket as well. (Reference – Broken Cricket)
2019 – More than 11 years have passed since Virat Kohli made his debut in international cricket. Since then, every series that Kohli has played has been a step forward in his career; his undying passion and dedication towards the game have taken him to several new heights. 2019 has been an average year as of Virat Kohli standards. Became the fastest to 20,000 international runs. Scored most hundreds while chasing. Scored most ODI hundreds in a winning cause.
Virat Kohli’s rise from a stylish, promising young batsman into one of India’s greatest of all time has been an absolute joy to witness.At the age of 31, Kohli is already the proud holder of several records in the cricket books. His everlasting desire to keep improving his game every time he steps out to the field has helped him remain at the top of his game for so many years and it shall continue.