November, 2013: Sachin Tendulkar calls time on his 24-year-old career, leaving Indian fans shattered, as well as scared.
That’s because for the first-time in twenty four years, an Indian Test team won’t have God coming out to bat for them at #4. But all those fears were put to rest by a man, who would go on to become the heartbeat of the purest format of the game.
Virat Kohli, the player who revived the slowly dying format of the game. After making his debut in 2011 in Jamaica, the Delhi lad went on to score runs all around the world.
3rd March 2022.
Just another day, another feather to Kohli’s cap as he is going to don white jersey for the 100th time. The 12th Indian player to achieve this rare milestone after the legendary batting maestro Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman and brilliant and great all-rounder in Kapil Dev, a fast bowler in Ishant Sharma, leg spinner in Anil Kumble and off-spinner in Harbhajan Singh.
It seems like it was only yesterday when a 22-year-old round-faced bloke set his foot in Sabina Park, Kingston to play his debut Test alongside two other debutants – Praveen Kumar and Abhinav Mukund.
In reality, a decade has passed. A decade which was full of thrill and runs. A decade where the team has only got better and better with Kohli being in his prime and taking India over the finishing line whenever the team looked in trouble.
It’s been quite a journey in which the once pudgy Delhi boy known for his penchant for dominant batting transformed into a champion cricketer.
Frankly, there is absolutely nothing that the 33-year-old hasn’t done in the ninety nine Tests he’s played so far. Scoring tons overseas? Check.
Smashing World’s best bowling attack? Check.
Brining the mighty Australia on their knees? Check.
Taking India from number 7th to 1st in ICC Test rankings? Check.
Check, check, check.
From not having a pinch of hair on his cheeks to having a grey beard, Virat Kohli has lived Test Cricket to its best. Along with him, we all did. The former cricketers did and the world did.
In an era where many have claimed that the Test cricket wouldn’t survive much, the Indian batsman has prioritised it, made people fall in love with this format again and put on some of his finest batting performances in the game.
Virat Kohli is going to reach another 100 on March 04 in Mohali against Sri Lanka. A milestone which is very special for the batting legend. He has not only been a batter who has excelled since making his Test debut in the West Indies in 2011. He has also been a captain who has delivered and set benchmarks for all the upcoming captains who will lead their team in whites. Forty wins in sixty eight Tests as captain, while maintaining an average of above 50, a sight which is rarest of the rare for the country in the longest format.
Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar, all of them who have played more than 100 Tests, have led India in the longest format but none of them has been as successful as Kohli.
Only Ganguly has a record which could be compared with Kohli’s as in forty nine matches, he led India to twenty one victories at a win percentage of 42.85. He lost thirteen matches while fifteen were drawn and his batting average in Tests is 42.17.
Tendulkar, who had a batting average north of fifty three in Tests led India to only four victories in twenty five games at a win percentage of sixteen. He lost nine while thirteen were drawns. The current head coach of team India, Rahul Dravid wasn’t a successful captain either as he could manage only eight wins from twenty five games while averaging above fifty two.
The others in the tally are Kumble, who won three of fourteen and averaged above twenty nine with the ball, Kapil Dev, winning four out of thirty four while averaging above thirty one with the bat and 29.63 with the ball.
Sunil Gavaskar, the batting legend won India nine out of forty seven matches and had a win percentage of 19.14, while averaging above fifty one. Vengsarkar had two wins out of ten matches while averaging above forty two, while Sehwag led India in four Test matches and won two out of it while averaging in excess of forty nine.
The aforementioned names are today hailed as the best ever batting or bowling legends that India has ever produced but none of them are remembered for their dual skills, that is their individual achievement and captaincy, something which Virat Kohli is/was and will be remember for.
From becoming the first Asian captain to register a Test series win on Australian soil to India’s most successful Test captain, and then leaving Test captaincy to focus on his batting skills, Virat Kohli came a long long way.
Talking about his numbers in whites, from 116 vs Australia, Adelaide 2012, to 119 vs South Africa, Johannesburg 2013, to Melbourne to England, to Centurion, to Birmingham to Nottingham, he has piled up runs all around the world.
But it’s not the numbers always, it’s the grit, the determination, the elegance and sometimes that stubbornness that made him stand different from the crowd.
“It is not easy to play 100 Test matches. Test cricket is not easy. To be able to play one is great, to be able to play 100 is a fantastic achievement. It is something Virat Kohli can be proud of,” said Dravid in a special in a video posted on the website of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
What happens from hereon in could be any of the following. For fans’ sake, the dasher from Delhi could well strike a ton and mark a century of Test appearances with exactly the thing that’s gone missing for over two years. If not, he’ll be keen to rectify the mistake and start over again.
Either way, the crowds will be filled with delight and India with the passion that only the sight of Virat Kohli can bring to the middle.
Keep going, Virat. You’ve done us all proud.