By Nishad Pai Vaidya
“Well, I have seen Sachin and Rahul also play some great innings at the Test level at this age. Virat has also got it all” – Sunil Gavaskar
The dazzling century by Virat Kohli at Hobart had the world watching in awe and rubbing its eyes in disbelief. His heroics may have resurrected India from the dead and secured an imperative bonus point against all odds, but his onslaught on Laisth Malinga- the most feared bowler in limited-overs cricket – is something that would be etched in memory for years. Such was the brilliance of Kohli’s display that the legendary Sunil Gavaskar compared him to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid’s exploits at a similar age.
While Kohli has just kicked off his Test career, he is a proven force in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). He has scored nine hundreds in 82 ODIs, six of which have come in successful run-chases. Time and again, he plays a knock that rallies the team and takes them through to victory – the win at Hobart being the latest example. Without doubt, this knock is a defining moment as it signifies his value to this Indian line-up.
Therefore, it would be fitting to revisit his previous eight tons – each of which have been special and brought a new dimension to his game.
Here are his ODI centuries:
1. 107 vs Sri Lanka at Kolkata, 2009
The iconic Eden Gardens witnessed Kohli announcing his arrival on the international stage. Chasing a formidable 316 under lights, India were dented early as they lost both Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag inside four overs. Kohli joined Gautam Gambhir at the crease to resurrect India. The Delhi duo sustained their pressure on the Lankan bowlers by good running between the wickets and hitting the boundaries whenever the opportunity presented. Kohli’s mature approach coupled with Gambhir’s experience put India on course to a comfortable win. By the time Kohli was dismissed with the score on 247, Indiawere way past the initial wobble. This game marked the beginning of the successful Gambhir-Kohli partnership which has flourished since then.
2. 102 not out vs Bangladesh at Mirpur, 2010
The hundred at Eden Gardens had raised everybody’s expectations of Kohli and he didn’t disappoint as India travelled toBangladesh after the Lanka series. It was the last league game of the tri-series featuring Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh withIndia ensured of a place in the final. Nevertheless, a win was imperative, albeit against Bangladesh. The openers had got Indiaoff to a good start in pursuit of 248. Kohli walked in at No 3 and played a very sensible knock to see India through without major hiccups. His 102 came at better than a run-a-ball and nullified the Bangladeshi challenge. This performance affirmed the belief that he could be a consistent performer at the highest level and can be relied upon to anchor a run-chase.
3. 118 vs Australia at Visakhapatnam, 2010
A huge target of 290 started looking mountainous as India lost two early wickets during their run-chase. Batting at three, Kohli initiated damage-control in the company of Yuvraj Singh. Without taking many chances, the two milked the Australian bowling and made scoring look very easy. Kohli, in particular, was a delight to watch as he stuck to his basics and placed the ball in the gaps. The harsh conditions took their toll on him as he started cramping during the latter stages of the innings, but he maintained the flow. As the target neared, he decided to take his chances and cut loose. This Indian team didn’t feature the likes of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir – a fact that makes Kohli’s effort truly meritorious. Furthermore, it came after an indifferent run of form and he admitted to have felt the heat. His coach, Rajkumar Sharma rated this as his ward’s best knock. But of course, this was before the Hobart dazzler.
4. 105 vs New Zealand at Guwahati, 2010
If one felt that the knock at Visakhapatnam was a jail-breaking act, they couldn’t be more wrong as Kohli smashed his second consecutive hundred in ODIs to convince the critics that he was here to stay. His maiden hundred batting first set the tone for an easy win. As the other batsmen wielded their willow by playing aggressive strokes, Kohli was relatively sedate in his approach and focused on timing the ball. He anchored the run-chase and accelerated as the slog overs approached.
5. 100 not out vs Bangladesh at Dhaka, ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
It was Kohli’s first exposure to the biggest stage and his efforts helped India kick-start their dream run in style. Traditionally,India have been slow starters at the World Cup and the horrors of the defeat to Bangladesh in the 2007 edition would have been there at the back of the players’ minds. Sehwag’s brutality was matched by Kohli’s class as he eased into his first World Cup. The cover-drives and the shots down the ground were a feature during this knock. A lot of the attention was hogged by Sehwag’s display, but one cannot take anything away from Kohli’s effort. It is very easy to get overawed during a World Cup debut or get carried away by looking at Sehwag bludgeoning the ball to all parts of the ground and attempt something similar. However, Kohli’s temperament was the winner which conquered those distractions and allowed him to play his natural game.
6. 107 vs England at Cardiff, 2011
The last game of the horrendous tour of England heralded a new era for Kohli. Keeping the team’s failures aside, he was under pressure due to his personal form as he had run into a lean patch. The spotlight was on Rahul Dravid, who was playing his last ODI. Hailed as the next Dravid in some corners of the cricketing fraternity, Kohli started off like the original “Wall” by playing himself in and then opening up. He kept rotating strike and avoided doing anything silly. The best part about his innings was the way he chose his big shots. It was almost as if he had a map of the field in his mind and could place the ball with geometric precision. Even though some of the strokes were hit in the air, there wasn’t any risk involved as they were played in the safe areas. One can say that this hundred signalled a coming of age and symbolically, Dravid passed on the baton to Kohli. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to secure a win and it remains Kohli’s only ton in a losing cause.
7. 112 not out vs England at Delhi, 2011
A very familiar task lay before Kohli as two early wickets had stuttered India’s pursuit of 238. India were looking to crush the demons and avenge humiliation of the England tour and were already 1-0 up in the series. Gambhir and Kohli were in the act yet again as they strolled towards the target on their home ground. The fluency with which Kohli scored was a sight for the sore eyes as he outstripped his partner on the scoreboard after being level for sometime. Both were unbeaten as the win was achieved with nonchalant ease. This knock is special because it was his first hundred at his home ground – a momentous occasion for any cricketer.
8. 117 vs West Indies at Visakhapatnam, 2011
A run-chase, two early wickets – isn’t a Kohli ton the most likely eventuality! Ravi Rampaul’s late hitting took West Indies to 269 and the early dismissals of Parthiv Patel and Gambhir threatened to take the game away from India. However, Kohli walked into his comfort zone and went about the script in a familiar manner in the company of Rohit Sharma. Kohli fell with India on the brink, but had yet gain set-up a comfortable win after initial worries.
9. 133 not out vs Sri Lanka at Hobart, CB series, 29-02-2012
Going into this game, India had to win with a bonus point and their uninspiring form prompted Sunil Gavaskar to say”despite mathematical chance, don’t think India can make it to the final.”
When Sri Lanka piled 320, staying alive in the tournament looked a mountainous task as they had to overhaul the target inside 40 overs. Tendulkar and Sehwag got India off to a brisk start. Once they fell, the dependable firm of Gambhir and Kohli were in business. Compared to their previous heroics, this task looked even more enormous.
Kohli punched his first ball through mid wicket for a boundary, but was struggling with his timing for a while. As the innings progressed, he regained his fluency and played handsome strokes to keep up with the asking rate. The moment of the day came when India required 42 off 36 balls and Malinga was introduced into the attack. That is when the game unexpectedly swung completely in India’s favour. Kohli took two of the first to get his hundred, but his best was yet to come. In the next five deliveries, he hit 6,4,4,4,4 to crush the aura surrounding Malinga.India achieved the target in 36.4 overs, leaving their qualifying chances to fate.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.)