43 reasons to love the Virat Kohli decade

The way Kohli is going about his ODI hundreds, Tendulkar’s 49 tons from 463 ODIs over 23 years is a short term target, perhaps a few months away.

When he walked off the ground on Wednesday night, unbeaten on 114 off 99 balls, Kohli had taken India to victory for the 35th time.   -  FILE PHOTO/ AP

Christmas eve 2009, Kolkata – Virender Sehwag, captaining the side, loses the toss and Sri Lanka pile up 315 for 6 in the allotted 50 overs. After being touted as the next great hope of Indian batting, Virat Kohli had appeared in 13 ODIs without scoring a hundred. The fact that Sachin Tendulkar had taken 78 matches and almost five years before he scored his first ODI century must have been of some comfort, even to one born in the instant gratification generation as Kohli was.

Instead, when he strode out to bat on a hazy winter evening in Kolkata with India at 23 for 2 and both Sehwag and Tendulkar back in the hut, failure was far away from his young mind. Over the next three hours, in the company of his Delhi team mate Gautam Gambhir who scored an unbeaten century, Kohli gave the first glimpse to an unsuspecting world, what the next glorious decade would look like. He piled on the agony on the hapless Lankans with a magnificent 107 off 114 deliveries.

Kohli and Gambhir after the match-winning partnership against Sri Lanka in 2009.   -  FILE PHOTO/ S. SUBRAMANIUM

 

Incredibly, this week at Port of Spain, on the eve of India’s 73rd Independence Day — less than a decade after his first ODI ton — Kohli recorded his 43rd. If that is not jaw-dropping enough, the statistics and comparisons that surround it are perhaps enough to stun even the most vocal critics.

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When he walked off the ground on Wednesday night, unbeaten on 114 off 99 balls, Kohli had taken India to victory for the 35th time. Put in context, 81 per cent of the time that Kohli has scored a century for his nation over the last decade, India has won the match.

Twenty-six of these 43 centuries have come in the second innings, when India has been chasing a total set by the opposition, arguably a far more pressure cooker situation than scoring a ton in the first innings.

The centuries have been scored against nine opponents in nine different countries, with 56 per cent of them coming outside India; 21 of the 43 tons have come when Kohli has led the side, so an incredible 49 per cent of the time, it has been a captain’s knock.

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And just in case there are questions about the quality of the opposition, 81 per cent of the centuries have been scored against England, Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, the only other teams to have ever made the finals of World Cups. If you replace West Indies with South Africa (citing the less than stellar Caribbean performances in recent years), the numbers still stack up at 70 per cent.

At 60.31 after 239 matches, Kohli has the highest batting average among all cricketers with 100 or more ODIs against their name. AB de Villiers with 53.50, Joe Root with 51.36, and MS Dhoni with 50.57 are the only ones who are close.

And if the 43 reasons are not enough to love the Kohli, consider this: With that innings at Port of Spain this week, Kohli also crossed 20,000 international runs in a glorious decade (from January 1 2010) of batting mastery. In the process, he marched past Ricky Ponting’s 18,962 scored in the 2000s.

The way Kohli is going about his ODI hundreds, Tendulkar’s 49 tons from 463 ODIs over 23 years is a short term target, perhaps a few months away.

Where India’s latest, and arguably greatest, ODI superman goes from here can only be constrained by our imagination, not by his. As far as Kohli is concerned, the sky will always be the limit.