Virat Kohli
India’s Virat Kohli plays a shot during the Asia Cup 2023 super four one-day international cricket match against Pakistan at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on September 10, 2023. He struck his 47th ODI hundred and completed 13,000 runs. Image Credit: AFP

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, goes the adage. That’s very true of Virat Kohli. He turns up whenever India need him the most, particularly against Pakistan. The unbeaten 122 on Monday was the latest of his matchwinning efforts. His heroic knock against Pakistan in the Twenty20 World Cup in Melbourne last year is still fresh in memory. The Colombo innings was dissimilar, yet it was instrumental in setting up India’s win.

Kohli’s batting clicks into a higher gear in clashes against Pakistan. Despite that, he has a legion of fans across the border. Pakistan cricket fans adore him: they love his swagger, in-your-face aggression and brilliant batsmanship. So the pressure to perform cranks up whenever India square off against Pakistan.

It was no different on Monday. India got off to a good start in the Asia Cup when they faced India for the second time in Colombo. That allowed Kohli to play himself in. He didn’t have a fluent start but eked out the singles and stole the twos to keep the scoreboard moving. That also allowed him to bring the aggressive KL Rahul on strike, and the partnership prospered.

This is what marks out Kohli. His tall scores have not always been the result of audacious shotmaking. They stem from an accomplished technique and a high cricketing intelligence. Twelve years of international cricket has turned the Delhi-born player into a hardened veteran who can read the situation and play accordingly.

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After Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, Kohli has become India’s favourite player. Popular too. And the opposition’s most sought-after Indian wicket. He also has plenty of detractors. The bold demeanour and aggression on the field didn’t sit well with them. When Kohli went through a slump (a poor phase considering his prolific scoring), they were swift to write him off. Once Kohli struck a hundred against Afghanistan in the T20 World Cup in Dubai a couple of years back, the former India captain swiftly returned to high-scoring ways.

At 34, Kohli continues to be the bulwark of Indian batting. He may not be as fleetfooted as in the past, but his fitness level is so good that Kohli continues to steal the singles and turns the singles into twos. And that sets him up for an assault in the slog overs. Which is precisely what he did on Monday against Pakistan as he struck his 47th ODI hundred and became the fastest to complete 13,000 runs.

The 94-ball 122 augurs well for Kohli and India ahead of next month’s ODI World Cup. His performance will be critical if India have to win a World Cup since 2011. After all, Kohli is the batter for big occasions. It doesn’t get bigger than the World Cup.