Vintage Kohli adapts to convert | Crickit
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Vintage Kohli adapts to convert

By, Mumbai
Jul 22, 2023 07:32 PM IST

The former India skipper played with control to score his first away century since 2018

Ahead of the second Test against West Indies, India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour was certain that a big score was just around the corner for Virat Kohli. “Him scoring a century is inevitable,” Rathour told bccitv. “The way he’s been batting, he’s bound to score runs.”

Virat Kohli in action.(AFP)
Virat Kohli in action.(AFP)

These comments made sense when one looked at the way Kohli negotiated the first 20 balls he faced on day one in Port of Spain. It wasn’t about the strokeplay, as he didn’t score a single run off those 20 balls, but it was the dogged determination. He simply kept his head down and left deliveries with conviction.

Also Read | Virat Kohli equals Don Bradman with sensational ton vs WI in landmark 500th international match; overtakes Tendulkar

For the most part, Kohli, like many of the greats, has had the propensity to dominate bowlers. He has always been known for keeping the scoreboard ticking and forcing bowlers to change their plans. But this is a different phase in his career. After a few disappointing years by his lofty standards, he’s willing to go through the grind and do whatever it takes.

“Cricket is about adaptability,” said Rathour. “He (Kohli) is aggressive but the better players know how to change their game and play according to the team’s requirement. And I think that is Virat’s biggest quality.”

Before the start of day two as well, with him being unbeaten on 87 overnight, Kohli decided to hit the nets early in the morning. And it wasn’t for a simple session of throwdowns, he was padded up entirely to face as many deliveries and get his eye in before the day’s play began. Competing in his 500th international game, he still had the zeal to perfect his preparation.

And he did get the reward for it. After ending a streak of 41 innings without a Test century during Australia’s tour of India earlier this year, he crossed the three-figure mark again. Along with the solid defence, he had put on a cover-driving masterclass against a rather hapless Windies attack.

Kohli was batting on 18 when Ajinkya Rahane was dismissed and India were reduced to 182/4 after enjoying a 139-run opening stand. It was a testing period for the visitors and they needed their most accomplished player to apply himself. And Kohli was well prepared to do that. He added a 159-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Ravindra Jadeja (61) and went on to complete a chance-less ton in the process.

It was Kohli’s first overseas Test century in 1,680 days and his 76th overall in international cricket. No player has ever scored these many tons after 500 games in international career, with Sachin Tendulkar (75), Ricky Ponting (68) and Jacques Kallis (60) behind him on the list.

With his latest effort, Kohli now has 29 centuries and as many half-centuries in the longest format. It’s a remarkable achievement and a testament to how good he has been at converting his starts into big scores for most of his career.

From November 2019 to March 2023, the period that saw him go 41 innings without a Test hundred, Kohli registered six half-centuries. In ODIs, too, from August 2019 to December 2022, he got 10 half-centuries and no century in 25 innings.

However, over the past seven months, Kohli has now hit five international centuries – two in Tests and three in ODIs. For the longest time, the term ‘run machine’ and Kohli were synonyms and after a few uncharacteristic years, the right-hander seems to be finding his mojo back.

It’s a crucial year with the Asia Cup, ODI World Cup and a tour of South Africa coming up, and it augurs well for the Indian team that their talisman is as hungry as ever and finding the big scores. In terms of fitness and commitment, Kohli remains second to none. But runs are runs and the fact that he’s converting his starts again regularly is great news for Indian cricket.

“He’s a real inspiration to so many players within this team and to so many young boys and girls back home in India,” said India’s head coach Rahul Dravid before the ongoing second Test against West Indies.

“His numbers and the records he has set speak for themselves but for me what’s been great to see first-hand is the effort he puts in behind the scenes, when nobody is watching. That is reflected in the fact that he’s played 500 games for India. He’s got here because of a lot of hard work, and sacrifices that he’s made through his career and is willing to continue to make.”

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