Standing tall when the chips are down, fighting in tough conditions to take the team across the line and playing with immense passion would be the epitaph that would describe Virat Kohli.
In ten years of international cricket, Kohli has led the team with earnestness and has been the hero in the face of adversity ever since he made his debut in 2008 after a triumphant outing as skipper in the Under-19 World Cup.
On his 30th birthday, we walk down memory lane to revisit the most memorable knocks that Captain Kohli has played over the years.
1. 133* against Sri Lanka at Hobart in 2012
Virat Kohli’s ‘coming of age’ knock, if one can say. The Indian team needed to overhaul the target of 321 that had been set by Sri Lanka in 40 overs, to not only win with a bonus point but to also keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the tri-series finals. Chasing the tough target in 50 overs proves to be a tough task, and overhauling it in 40 overs seemed improbable until Kohli emerged to smash the bowlers all over the ground.
He took a heavy liking for Lasith Malinga – by far the best ODI bowler at the time – by dispatching his yorkers to the boundary rope at will. By stealing 24 runs off one over bowled by the Lankan, Kohli made his intentions clear. He eventually helped India overhaul the target in 36.4 overs itself! Just a few innings after his blistering knock at Hobart, Kohli once again came to the rescue with a career-best knock of 183 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup to announce his arrival emphatically.
2. 141 against Australia at Adelaide in 2014
By 2014 Kohli had already become a limited overs phenomenon, but his Test performances left a lot to be desired. He was under the pressure after a dismal tour to England and with MS Dhoni skipping the first Test in Australia due to injury, the captaincy duties were bestowed upon the Delhiite.
However, he took a strong liking to the additional pressure, scoring hundreds in both innings of the first Test. The knock of 141, in particular, stands out, for it displayed Kohli’s ability to go after a stiff chase. The Indian camp decided to not play for a meek draw and instead chose to go after the target of 364 that had been set. Kohli took charge and stitched together a crucial partnership with Murali Vijay before the latter was dismissed. With the middle order failing to support Kohli, he perished going for a big one but not before he wowed the cricketing world with his aggressive approach.
3. 100* against Australia at Jaipur in 2013
The Australia tour to India in 2013 saw some mighty runs being chased down, but the one at Jaipur stood out for the ease with which Kohli and Rohit Sharma went about their business. Australia had set the Indians a massive target of 359 but even after a tremendous start by the openers, 186 runs were still needed for India to win in 23.5 overs.
What followed was a carnage from the two, especially Kohli. He ably supported his partner and took upon the responsibility of being the attacker. He notched up his hundred in just 52 deliveries – the fastest century by an Indian – and played some breathtaking shots. The six he hit off Shane Watson, where the ball kept short and Kohli pulled it towards deep mid-wicket was one for the ages, as India chased the target with more than six overs to spare.
4. 113 against Kings XI Punjab at Bengaluru in 2016
Kohli broke the record of scoring the most runs in a single IPL season in 2016, where he scored more than 900 runs with the help of 4 centuries. However, his knock against Punjab can be termed as the best, not only due to the pressure that his team was in but also due to the physical pain that he endured reaching the milestone.
After a disastrous start to the tourney, RCB were seventh midway into the IPL, needing to win all their remaining league games to qualify for the top four. Once again, Kohli took it upon himself to be the anchor of his side and single-handedly took his team to the second place, with the help of some mercurial knocks.
Against Punjab, rain threatened to play spoilsport, but the game was eventually reduced to 15-overs a side. Scoring a hundred in 20 overs is phenomenal, but scoring one in 15 overs is just unheard of. Kohli did the impossible by racing away to 113 in 15 overs, but what made the knock even greater was that he did so with seven stitches on his left hand!
Champions are of a tough mettle, they say and King Kohli has shown us the same over and over again.