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King Kohli demands and delivers greatness
Test century number 22. International hundred number 56. A 28th international hundred as captain. You could keep writing out these statistics but they do little other than add glitter to the genius of Virat Kohli. In the middle of a collapse by his teammates, Kohli stood tall as he so often does to score possibly his most meaningful century. All of this happened in the country where he had the most difficult series of his career four years ago, and people doubted whether he would face the same issues again this time around. Yet again, the old adage of “write champions off at your peril” came up trumps at Edgbaston today. So how does he do it? How has he become arguably the best sportsman on the planet and what makes him so hungry for success time and again?
In order to understand the psyche of Kohli, it makes sense to go back to when he was 18 years of age. The boy from Delhi was playing a Ranji trophy (India’s county cricket equivalent) game against Karnataka. Karnataka were massively ahead in the game on 19 December 2006, and Kohli was unbeaten at 40 in order to try and save the game. That night, something happened that changed his life forever as his father Prem Kohli lost his life prematurely at 54 years old. Upon hearing this shock news, many mere mortals would have immediately gone home from the game in order to perform the last rites for their father. But Kohli immediately spoke to his mentor, Rajkumar Sharma. “What should I do? Delhi are struggling in the game.” Sharma told Kohli to follow his heart, so Kohli arrived at the ground the next day, ready to bat. He played a dogged knock, scoring a crucial 90 runs in 238 balls to save the game for his team. After he was declared out, he left to attend the funeral of his father. Asked as to why he made the decision to play, Kohli said he was fulfilling the dreams of his father. “My father has been my biggest support. He was the one who drove me to practice every day.” For athletes of his calibre, there has to be a burning desire as to what makes them so good. And for the Indian captain, it is the dreams of his father that makes him want to succeed every time he is out in the middle.
Other than this insatiable appetite to perform in every match, Kohli’s most important quality is his focus on the current moment. He may have a dream to carry the Indian national team on his back like his idol Sachin Tendulkar did all those years ago, but that never muddles with his intent and desire to help his team in the current situation. It was not even a century, but his twin innings of 52 and 41 at Johannesburg in the recent test series in South Africa was truly remarkable. The first part of both of his innings was incredibly difficult against the likes of Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada. He knew that he had to hang in for a while before he could let his attacking instincts take over. Today saw him face even more treacherous circumstances. James Anderson had his number in the 43 deliveries Kohli played against him, and it even saw Kohli being dropped by Dawid Malan on 21. But, the champion’s fighting spirit and determination shone through and he delivered a masterclass on how to bat with the tail. These types of performances have led to people giving Kohli all types of tags and titles, but he literally does not care. After their 5-1 ODI series win in South Africa, Kohli taunted the media along with his coach, Ravi Shastri. When asked what words he would use to describe his 35th ODI hundred, he stunned the room. “I know for a fact 90% of the people sitting in this room didn’t give us a chance to be in this position after the first two test matches. So, I’m not going to live in this dream and accept all this praise because it does not matter to me.” Therefore, he delivers time and again and never settles on his laurels.
So, he has shut his critics up and conquered his final frontier by scoring a test century in England. But looking at how he goes about his business, he will not let up until he lifts the Pataudi trophy at the Oval in September.