One hundred of the finest - Virat Kohli
In the day and age of fast-paced T20 cricket, quick money and glamour, test cricket continues to become the road less travelled.
As the commercial aspect of the game continues to take centre stage and time continues to be a premium for spectators, the existence of the longer format of the game is probably as serious a threat to the sport as global warming is for the entire planet. Therefore, when someone makes it to the elite list of players having played 100 test matches, it is no mean achievement. Not at least in the modern era.
Virat Kohli made his test debut back in 2011 against the West Indies. It was also at a time when then college going Indian cricket fans like myself were coming to terms with a possible life post Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. There were big boots to fill, and we questioned ourselves if we would continue to be as fond of the upcoming Indian team once these stalwarts exited.
Kohli’s first series was underwhelming, and he got dropped from the test team subsequent to that. It was only during the final test of the Australia tour later during that season that he got an opportunity. He grabbed it with both hands and scored a fascinating hundred as India went down by 298 runs. That test match turned out to be the last for Dravid and Laxman and opened up a permanent spot for Kohli.
Since then, apart from a lean tour of England in 2014, the batter in Kohli has barely put a foot wrong. The statistics are there to show what he has achieved on the field. Very few know about the sacrifices off it. Former teammates of his have spoken about his love for junk food and how ‘taste’ was everything that mattered to him. However, he realized soon that his ‘taste’ of food was not going to get him a ‘taste’ of the success he wanted to achieve as an athlete. He switched to a proper diet, maintains fluid levels, barely misses a practice session and very rarely has a cheat day. Those are the ingredients which have gone into shaping this champion cricketer. Be it fitness, be it preparation or be it challenging himself to get better, Virat has set benchmarks which very few will be able to achieve.
Moreover, he remains extremely emotionally vested in the game and in particular about test cricket. While the runs have kept coming at a Tendulkaresque rate, it is his leadership and his eagerness to win abroad which has given the next generation a stalwart to look up to in the long format. Together with a middle order of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane and a bowling attack comprising of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, India had a team which could score runs and take twenty wickets on all conditions.
Needless to say, that the current Indian team has pulled off wins from situations, Indian teams of the past would have faltered easily. Kohli’s emotions on the field are a true reflection of how much he wants to win and how badly he wants Indian cricket to succeed. It is why fans like us, who are old school, love test cricket more than ever, today!
His 100th test match will also be his first as a non-captain since 2014. He took India to a record 40 wins out of his 68 tests as captain. It will also be a match where he will find himself with new middle order partners with his trusted allies in Pujara and Rahane having been dropped. Knowing Virat, he will make sure that his lesser experienced partners feel comfortable at the crease.
Take a bow Virat Kohli. You have given us more than a hundred reasons to celebrate! Go well Champion! May you make India and test cricket proud for many more years to come.
P.S. – In case someone reads this and thinks Kohli is a one format legend, let me remind you that he actually averages over 50 in the ODI and T20I formats as well and has scored a mere 15,607 runs in those two formats for India!