Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli practises at the nets ahead of the first Test match against Sri Lanka at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali on March 1, 2022. Image Credit: ANI

Virat Kohli steps out to play his 100th Test on Friday (March 4, 2022), when India take on Sri Lanka in the first game at Punjab Cricket Association’s Mohali stadium. For more than 11 years, he’s been the bulwark of Indian batting as well as leading the country to several landmark victories. Here’s a quick look at Kohli’s accomplishments and commentaries from Gulf News cricket experts.

Virat Kohli carried the burden of Indian batting for 11 years

A.K.S. Satish, Sports Editor

2011: India win the World Cup. An excited Virat Kohli, who had carried Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders, said: “Sachin Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It was time we carried him.”

Since then Kohli has carried the Indian team on his shoulders. Now the superstar is on the threshold of a landmark: his 100th Test.

Success is a by-product of sacrifice, hard work and passion. There is no shortage of passion for Kohli. He always wore his heart on the sleeve and never hid his emotions. Never did he let his energy drop after a hard day’s play. He has sustained the passion for so long, despite making his debut in Tests in 2011. It’s a reflection of his character and his love for the sport.

Kohli wanted to be the best in the business. To accomplish that, he altered his lifestyle to get fitter and take his career to the next level. His obsession with fitness and passion for the game was so intense that he sacrificed his favourite food. Nothing was allowed to deter him from achieving his dreams.

“I personally never grew up thinking I have to score small runs, the idea was to score huge runs,” Kohli said ahead of the match in Mohali against Sri Lanka — also the visitors’ 300th Test.

“My idea was to bat long. I used to enjoy batting for long periods of time, try to win games for my team, or try to get a first-innings lead, which is the format we used to follow,” he said.

“These are the things which reveal your true character. I just felt that Test cricket needed to stay alive, because this for me is real cricket,” Kohli said in the interview with the Indian cricket board.

Talking about Kohli’s obsession with fitness, Ramji Srinivasan, a fitness trainer with the squad that won the 2011 World Cup, said: “Be it his skills or his fitness, be is his character, Virat is unique. He enjoyed fitness. He will be the first to come out of the dressing room for fitness [sessions] and will also be the first to do the gym session. He will always be on time. So it became very easy for him to transition to the next level.”

Kohli was not just happy to find the success formula; he also ensured that his Indian teammates followed it. So he changed the fitness culture in the Indian dressing room, a move that dashed the dreams of several talented players. If you are not fit enough, you can’t make the national team: that was the unwritten rule. And it worked wonders as India went on to dominate cricket in all formats.

For Kohli, cricket always came first. An Under-19 World Cup-winning captain, he turned up for his Ranji Trophy debut [against Tamil Nadu] barely hours after his father’s death.

Rohit Sharma, who replaced Kohli as Test captain, was effusive in praising his talented batter.

“As a Test team, we stand in a very good position. If you look at the last five years of our Test cricket ... the whole credit goes to Virat for getting us going in this particular format,” Rohit told reporters. “What he has done with the Test team was brilliant to see,” Rohit added, saying he wanted to give Kohli a “special” victory over Sri Lanka — who have never won a Test in India.

One of Kohli’s best moments was the series win over Australia, ending seven decades of losses. His self-belief rubbed off on the teammates, leading to victories that made India the No 1 Test team in the world.

On Friday, Kohli will start a new innings in Mohali. Who knows? It could be the best phase of his career.

India’s captain Virat Kohli celebrates with Ishant Sharma (left) and other teammates after the successful appeal for the wicket of England’s Jonny Bairstow on the final day of the second cricket Test match at Lord’s in London, on August 16, 2021. Kohli quit as Test captain on January 15, 2022, bringing to an end a controversy-laden seven-year stint in one of the highest-profile, highest-pressure positions in sport. Image Credit: AFP

Comment: King Kohli still rules Test cricket

Anis Sajan, Special to Gulf News

India had produced many batting greats — from Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Virendra Sehwag — who have played more than 100 Tests and have done wonders for team India. All of them have retired, and the latest Indian player to reach the milestone will be Virat Kohli, who will achieve it when he walks out on Friday at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali against Sri Lanka.

All eyes will be on the champion cricketer King Kohli, who is seventh in the world Test rankings. But sometimes rankings don’t tell you the exact stature of a player not only in Indian cricket but in world cricket too. Kohli has scored 7,962 runs in 99 Tests with 27 hundreds, including seven double centuries, at an astonishing average of 50.39.

He has come a long way since his debut against the West Indies in 2011 at the age of 22 and has broken several records in the highest form of cricket. He is the only Indian Test player to score seven double tons in the first 10 years. As skipper, Kohli has scored 20 Test centuries, second only to Graeme Smith of South Africa.

Under his captaincy, India won 40 Tests in 68 matches, which is the highest among all Indian captains. Among the fab four players, Kohli and Steve Smith of Australia have scored 27 Test hundreds. He was only the second player after Greg Chappell to score twin hundreds on captaincy debut against Australia at Adelaide.

He might be 33, but no player comes close to King Kohli when it comes to fitness. It has rubbed off on many Indian young cricketers who are inspired by Kohli. It’s a pity that when he walks out this Friday to play his hundred Test, he won’t be India’s captain. But I dare say King Kohli rules Test cricket, which no other Indian cricketer has done so far.

— Cricket enthusiast Anis Sajan is the Vice-Chairman of Danube Group

Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century on the third day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur, on November 26, 2017. Image Credit: AFP

Comment: I love Virat Kohli’s competitive fervour

Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor

Virat Kohli evokes extreme emotions. Some love him to bits, and others loathe him with a vengeance. Whether you like him or not, what’s indisputable is that he’s one of the best of his generation. To some, he’s the best. And that thought has merit since he was a scoring machine at one point in his career, drawing comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar.

That, I think, is the biggest compliment to Kohli. For Tendulkar is considered the god of cricket in India. To be even spoken in the same breath is indeed high praise. It’s odious to compare players of different eras, but I think Kohli is the Tendulkar of his time.

The English may say that Joe Root is the best, while the Australians pick Steven Smith. And the New Zealanders won’t see beyond Kane Williamson. They are superb players; they are heads and shoulders above the rest. To me, Kohli is better than all of them.

As a batsman, Kohli’s best came when leading the side. And he became India’s best captain, and his win ratio made him the fourth successful skipper in cricket history. Statistics bear that out. Even his worst critics would have to concede that.

Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News

Critics, carping critics always had the knives out for Kohli. They didn’t like his unflinching aggression, his fiery demeanour and bravado. It may be considered un-Indian since Indians love their icons to be humble and downplay their accomplishments.

Kohli is the very anti-thesis. Fearlessness is what makes Kohli a feared player. I loved it when he stood up to the opposition; he refused to be stared down by Mitchell Johnson or other fast bowlers. Rivals knew that they couldn’t mess around with Kohli. That’s half the battle won.

He may not have the swagger of a Viv Richards, but Kohli wore his aggression like a badge of honour. His energy levels never flagged even at the end of the day’s play in Test cricket. He anguished or celebrated every moment. With Kohli around, there was never a dull moment. Only fierce competition.

Play on Virat. May more runs flow from your flashing blade.