Virat Kohli takes part in his birthday celebrations with team mentor MS Dhoni (left), teammates Ishan Kishan and Mohammed Shami after their win over Scotland on Friday night. Image Credit: Twitter/BCCI

Dubai: It has not been just another birthday for Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who turned 33 on Friday. No, it’s not as if the ongoing T20 World Cup had been an extraordinary one for him with the bat while the team’s fortunes also hinge on the result of New Zealand-Afghanistan game on Sunday - as well as the vagaries of net run-rate.

It’s different because when one says Kohli, 33, it suddenly acquires the ring of a veteran about him. There is an unmistakeable feeling that the Indian captain, on his last international T20 assignment as the leader, being on the threshold of slipping into a Kohli 2.0 mode. There will be a new T20 captain soon while there has been already a change in the head coach and there is enough buzz that he will also be relieved of the 50-overs captaincy in due time.

The relaxed, almost self-conscious demeanour, at the photo he has posted on his social media handle of the Kohlis - with daughter Vamika now eligible to occupy a child heat - endorses that he is ready to slip into a more mellowed phase of his life.


“I think I am over that phase now. No, I mean, my family is here. Anushka and Vamika are here. That’s celebration enough for me. Just having families around in these times in bio-bubble life is very difficult. That’s a blessing in itself. The team has been amazing. Everyone wished me,” Kohli said at the post-match chat with the broadcasters when asked about his birthday celebrations on Friday.

How will Kohli emerge like a personality without the pressures of white ball captaincy altogether? As Indian cricket heads for a seismic change with a split captaincy like a England or Australia, it’s difficult to iamgine the animated character that he is to slip into a dispassionate mode as he stands on the outfield. He will certainly be at the helm of the Test team - a format which is indebted to him for it’s flourish over the last few years as India’s journey as a No.1 ranked Test nation.

Kohli, meanwhile, can draw inspiration from the fact that some of the biggest legends of Indian cricket has served it’s cause with equal intensity after stepping down from captaincy in the past. The legendary Sunil Gavaskar has played under Kapil Dev and vice versa, while Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid had done the same. The story was somewhat different for Sourav Ganguly, who had to bear with the humiliation of being dropped from the team as captain and player - only to make a comeback and then enjoy an extremely profitable run as a Test batsman.

The legion of Kohli fans, however, can gradually sense the transformation in him as a batter for a period of over last two years. There was a period of over five years when he hardly put a foot wrong with the bat, scoring runs almost at will across all formats as well as the Indian Premier League (IPL). The last edition of World T20 in India in 2016, in fact, saw him at the peak of his prowess while this tournament itself has seen some of his best moments as a batter.

The fighting knock of 57 during their defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the first Super-12 game in the UAE was his 10th half-century in the tournament. It’s also pertinent to recall here that in the last two editions of World T20 in 2014 and 2016, he was adjudged Man of the Tournament as he averaged 106.33 and 136.50, respectively.

In the 2014 T20 World Cup, Kohli, with 319 runs, topped the charts for India as Rohit came in next, with 200 runs in six matches. The next edition had Kohli scoring 273 runs in the tournament that was held in India, had next to no support from the others, with MS Dhoni being the next-best scorer, making 89 runs.

There is no end to the speculation if his skills had been on the wane - with no international centuries since November,2019 - but Kohli the batsman shouldn’t be judged on that alone. He has been what you call the builder of an innings and that’s the batting philosophy he has consciously adopted even in IPL in recent years. There are bound to be subtle glitches creeping into the art of even the greatest batsmen - and one has seen this even with the great Tendulkar.

There could be a maximum of another three innings left for Kohli in this tournament - and one in a worse case scenario against Namibia on Monday. Can the birthday boy get a chance to do an encore of his exploits in the World T20?

We will know soon.