Virat Kohli, Ravi Shastri (Pic: PTI)
The last three years have been the toughest in Virat Kohli's career. He has seen it all - dip in form, losing captaincy in all three formats and then trolled for blocking an entry of a talented youngster in the Indian team. But one thing that kept him going is his hard work, perseverance and the never-say-die attitude that has seen him overcome many hurdles.
Kohli's lean patch in Test cricket had become a hot topic of discussion. Since giving up captaincy in all formats, Kohli's form dipped further. While many believed that letting go of captaincy would bring the best out of him and see him at his free-flowing best, the opposite happened. The 34-year-old has waited for more than three years to get to his 28th Test ton; the last one being in November 2019 against Bangladesh at Kolkata. The 42-innings wait finally ended on a decent surface at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday.
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There was a time when Kohli produced centuries at the drop of a hat. Fans thought that Kohli surpassing Sachin Tendulkar's 100 international centuries was a certainty. But his problems with the BCCI mandarins and the sudden drop in form and confidence made him a pale shadow of himself, so much so that there were many experts who felt that Kohli has had his time.
Luckily, he has had many admirers and advisers, none bigger than Ravi Shastri, who had worked wonders as head coach when Kohli was the captain. It was the former India all-rounder who advised him on how to get out of the mire he was stuck in - runs and confidence-wise. Shastri firmly believed that there was nothing wrong with Kohli's technique and it was purely a mental issue.
"Just look at thisâ¦ you are the best player in the world, have 70-plus centuries. Suddenly your form dips and batting deteriorates, your captaincy is taken away, and you are being misquoted. A lot has happened. It's a cluster of various things that has happened to you. So, probably [taking] some time off is the best for you," was Shastri's advice when Kohli was at his lowest ebb.
Kohli did pay heed to Shastri's advice, took a well-deserved break and did a lot of introspection during that time. He came back fresher and got three hundreds in ODIs (113 v Bangladesh in December 2022, 113 and 166' v Sri Lanka in January this year) and even in a T20I one (122' against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in September last year). But a Test century eluded him till he finally broke the jinx here on Sunday. It was his most laboured century, coming at a leisurely pace of 241 balls, with just five boundaries. He was so determined to reach the three-figure mark that he did not hit a single boundary on the fourth morning, till he reached the milestone. He soon celebrated the occasion with a couple of fours and a six to give vent to his emotions. In the end, he ran out of partners and was unable to add to his seven Test double centuries.
For the record, this is Kohli's 28th Test century, to add to 46 in ODIs and one in T20I, making a grand tally of 75, the second-most after Tendulkar's 100 hundreds. Will Kohli threaten to beat Tendulkar's record, only time will tell. But he will surely be happy to get a hundred in his favourite format.
Note: This appeared in print, dated March 13, 2023.