It was a gloomy afternoon on 17th August 2014. And indeed a gloomy tour of England for Team India. The scorecard read; India 62/5 in the second innings of the 5th Test Match, trailing the hosts by an innings and 276 runs.
In came Chris Jordan at top speed and bowled a full delivery. The late swing got Virat Kohli as he was trying to flick it towards mid-wicket. He edged it to first slip like he had done for the past 9 innings. Jordan did a big favor on Kohli and put him out of his misery. His figures read; 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0, 7, 6 and 20. He could only muster up 135 runs in the 5 match series at an average of 13.5. His usual swagger and self-belief were all missing back then. He couldn’t buy, manufacture or steal a run from anywhere.
India had earlier won the second test at Lords. Riding on Rahane’s brilliance from the bat and Ishant’s spellbinding bowling, India started dreaming of yet another series victory in England. But for that, it needed its talisman to fire.
The then 25-year-old Kohli tried his best but it was not meant to be. He tried leaving the ball outside off stump, he tried to come down the pitch to negate the swing, he tried to ignore the earlier plans and play according to the merit of the ball, but he failed every time. The Test series was over and India’s fans were optimistic that Kohli would forget about his red ball hoodoo and come to his usual self in the ODI series. But even in the ODIs, he couldn’t get back to his blistering best. India won the ODI series but Kohli returned home after scores of 0, 40, 1* and 13. It seemed that we lived in some different reality where Kohli was not the best batsman of his generation.
The Man With The Dragon Tattoo
Indian media, spoilt by habit, called for his head and suddenly started targeting his tattoos, his habits, his girlfriend and even accused him of abrasive unprofessional behavior.
The knives were out and the critics had tasted blood. They wanted more of it. It seemed that they would have their wish as Team India was to visit Australia next. The same place where India were humiliated in 2011 and had never won a Test series, ever. Virat absorbed all the criticism, deflected the pressure away from his teammates and made sure that India was fully prepared to give the Aussies a fight for their lives.
Mission Impossible: Kohli Goes Krazy
The first test of the tour, played in Adelaide would probably go down as one of the best played on Australian soil. It defined India under Kohli’s captaincy as well. It didn’t start so well as India failed to take 10 Australian wickets in the first innings. The hosts declared on 517/7 but Virat had seen enough. He struck a ton in the first innings but Australia still had a healthy lead. Australia thought they have had enough for India and declared at 290/5, setting India a mammoth target of 363. Any other sensible captain would have played for a draw, but Kohli is a maniac, isn’t he? The fighter inside of him could never settle for a draw and he decided to go for the impossible.
Against all odds, India were flying at 242/2 with Vijay on 99* and Kohli looking strong at the other end. But then cricket happened. Vijay was caught leg before wicket by Lyon and India fell like a pack of cards. Even after the 7th wicket fell, Kohli stood tall. But he knew he didn’t have enough time as the Aussies will target India’s tail. He pulled a Lyon delivery, but straight into the hands of Marsh at deep mid-wicket. And with that wicket, a nation wept.
The Viratshank Redemption
India had come within inches of a historic win Down Under. They lost by a meagre 48 runs as Virat Kohli was applauded across the world. Motivated by this victory, Aussies won the second match too at the Gabba; to lead the 4 match series 2-0. But Kohli took it upon himself to bring India back into the competition.
In the last two matches, he took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored huge centuries in both of them. But by that time, Indian bowling attack had lost its edge and wasn’t able to pick 20 Australian wickets. India lost the series 2-0 but returned home with their heads held high. This was followed by the World Cup where India, beyond all expectations reached the semi-finals of the tournament. Kohli didn’t exactly light the tournament up. He surely hit a ton against arch-rivals Pakistan but couldn’t deliver much after that.
Becoming The Godfather
Four years ago in a tri-series in Australia, Kohli had announced himself to the world. If that was his moment to come into the limelight, 2016 was the year when Kohli rose above the rest and stepped in the direction of greatness. First, it was the T20 World Cup. Kohli took it upon himself and made 1.25 billion people dream of yet another T20 crown that had been eluding India ever since that 2007 finale in South Africa.
All of his knocks in the World Cup were a beauty to watch, but a few of them would go down into Indian folklore. Especially the one which came against Australia in the final group game, which was a virtual semi-final. Chasing a total of 161, India needed 39 off final 3 overs and what came next could only have been done by the master chaser Kohli. Aided by Dhoni, India scripted a historic win to book a date with the Windies in the semifinals.
In the semis too, Kohli led from the front and scored 89 off 47 deliveries to give them a target of 193. But even he could only do so much as Indian bowlers faltered with their bowling and gave away no balls which costed India dearly. India failed, but Virat rose.
Summer was here and so was the annual festival of IPL. To say that IPL-2016 was Kohli’s tournament would actually be an understatement. Never before had fans seen such utter dominance by one team and one player in the entire history of the IPL. Kohli scored an unprecedented 973 runs which included 4 centuries. Yes, four. In T20 format. The only aberration for Kohli was that RCB choked in the finals to SRH.
The Names Kohli. Virat Kohli!
Putting the disappointment of IPL final loss behind him, the Delhi batsman flew for the tour of West Indies. He started where he had left off and scored a double ton, his very first, in the opening test match as India won by an innings and 92 runs. After the series win in the west, India had a long home season ahead of them where they would host New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia.
India whitewashed NZ 3-0 as Kohli hit yet another massive double hundred in the third test in Indore. England were next on the menu for Team India and boy oh boy, they faced some sweet chin music from Kohli’s men. Ashwin and Jadeja had spun their webs around English batsmen and they had no answer to it. And Kohli was in no mood to offer them any respite from India’s batting department. He scored a massive 167 at Vishakhapatnam to give India a 1-0 lead in the 5 match series.
India swatted aside England at Mohali to make it 2-0 and then came the historic Mumbai test. In probably his greatest test innings ever, Kohli was just unbeatable. He was like an unstoppable force but England were not an immovable object. A score of 235 was more than enough to shatter England’s spirits as India romped to yet another innings victory. A young Karun Nair scored a triple century at Chennai during the fifth test match to complete the revenge. India did to England what the English had done to India on the tour of 2014. England came and went but Kohli’s form was here to stay.
A Gladiator Who Defied Critics
High flying Bangladesh arrived in Hyderabad for their first ever Test in India and Kohli’s India taught them a lesson or two. It was just one off Test match, but it was more than enough for Kohli to add yet another double century to his record book. His form was just ridiculous. Double centuries in 4 back to back series was a feat never heard of before in cricket’s 120-year-old history. It seemed like every time he walked out to bat, it was only a matter of minutes before he would raise his bat for yet another record. He realised the value of his wicket and didn’t stop at those baby hundreds which he scored earlier. Now it was time for the big daddy centuries to kill off the opposition.
Australia’s tour of India was a nail-biter as India edged it 2-1 at Dharamshala in the last test. Virat’s form stuttered a bit as his shoulder was injured while fielding. He had a rotten IPL season as well as RCB struggled to get anywhere near their scintillating form of the previous season.
These little setbacks can trouble someone with a soft mindset. Not Virat Kohli. His character to learn from previous mistakes, ignore his critics and then get up and move forward sets him apart from the rest. Sri Lanka, Kohli’s favorite opposition visited India towards the end of 2017 and there was no chance Kohli was going to have mercy on them. He slammed a man of the match knock of 213 in Nagpur to lead India to an innings victory. Then his home turf, the Feroz Shah Kotla witnessed a moment of history. Kohli’s knock of 243, his best ever score in red ball cricket, elated his level to that of a legend of the game.
He became only the 6th batsman ever to score double centuries in consecutive innings and his record 6 double hundreds was the highest ever by any captain in the history of the game. We can understand the true importance of this feat when we realize that since 1932, only 4 Indian captains had hit a double ton. Each of MAK Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni had hit one double hundred during the days of their captaincy.
After tying the knot with Anushka Sharma in December of 2017, he flew to South Africa to do the impossible. To conquer the best team on the African continent, India looked for inspiration and as he usually does, Kohli came up with his first ton of the South African series. India lost the opening 2 matches, but these losses were not like before where India would just surrender over. This team under Kohli fought and fought hard.
The Indian pace battery now had enough trickery in their quiver to go toe to toe with their African counterparts and this proved to be the point in the third and final test match at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Kohli knew he had nothing to lose and for the first time, India fielded 5 pacers and no spinners. It felt like this was not an Indian side but legendary West Indian or Australian teams of the past. This bold move was a masterstroke as India recorded one of their finest ever win on foreign soil, if not the finest.
Then in the ODI series, Kohli had two weapons of mass destruction, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal as the duo took a whopping 33 wickets between them. This was more than enough for India to humiliate South Africa 6-1 in the 7 match ODI series. And did India do this with just contribution from the bowlers? Hell, no. Kohli is never far away from the action as he added 3 more centuries to his decorated record books.
Lord Of The Rings
Now, after conquering every other frontier in the world, only one place remains, the Home of Cricket. This time around India is in a better shape overall to try and claim the series. Since 2014, Virat Kohli has become one of the greatest of all time to hold the cricket bat. His record since that fateful tour of England in 2014 is something that most players dream of achieving in their entire careers. 15 centuries and 6 double hundreds in Tests and 16 more centuries in ODI cricket are not mere numbers but marks upon the history books.
He averages 53 in Tests, 58 in ODIs and 48 in T20 cricket, which shows that it doesn’t matter to him what format he is playing. He knows only one thing and that is to score big runs and win matches for his country. India lost the ODI series but it didn’t matter much, did it? Everyone has been waiting for the real cricket to start in England and now the time has come.
The King has returned, for redemption.