Virat Kohli
India's Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century during the fourth day of the fourth and final cricket Test against Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on March 12, 2023. Kohli was out after scoring 186 and by then India were in a safe position. The Test in a draw, and India won the series 2-1. Image Credit: AFP

Virat Kohli finally got his 28th Test century after a three-year wait. Three years, that’s a long time in cricket. And the three years spanned 41 innings in 23 Tests. That’s a surprise, given his stature as one of the modern greats.

Love him or loathe him, Kohli, at the peak of his powers, was arguably the best batsman in the world. Steve Smith ran him close, and the Australian continues to rake in runs and tons. Kane Williamson’s consistency hasn’t flagged, and more evidence was the century on Monday that lifted New Zealand to a last-ball win over Sri Lanka.

England’s Joe Root could be the world’s best Test batter on recent form, and Pakistan’s Babar Azam has broken into the exclusive club with a superb sequence of scoring spells. All this happened when centuries were hard to come by for the former Indian captain.

To Kohli, the 186 against Australia in Ahmedabad on Sunday meant a lot. That was apparent in the manner in which the Delhi batter constructed his innings, especially on the fourth day. Kohli eschewed risks to reach his ton that ensured India won’t lose the fourth Test.

True, the Motera track was placid; three others scored centuries. But chasing 480 can be put the skids, and the innings could unravel quickly. Kohli’s innings have to be seen in that context, especially since the 34-year-old came to bat when India were 187/2 — 293 behind Australia.

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Much of the innings was anchored in defence: from 59 to 102, Kohli didn’t score a boundary. Little wonder, the 241-ball ton was his second slowest (after Nagpur, 2012), but it helped cast off another millstone around his neck. And this one took 40 months; his last Test ton was against Bangladesh in November 2019.

The Test century completes the revival of Kohli. Since September 2022, he has struck his maiden ton in T20s and two centuries in One-Day Internationals. Ahmedabad completes his circle of recovery. A recovery in terms of centuries because he’s been scoring in white-ball cricket, although three figures remained elusive.

Since his maiden T20 century against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in Dubai, Kohli didn’t look back. The gutsy matchwinning knock of 82 not out in the Melbourne thriller against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup showed that Kohli’s fighting qualities are intact. Centuries during the tour of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s tour of India increased his tally of ODI tons to 46. Yet, a Test ton didn’t materialise.

That made the Ahmedabad knock special. It was vintage Kohli. Good old-fashioned cricket with a straight blade, it burnished his Test match credentials. It was an innings full of character. One that proclaimed King Kohli was back. Long live the king!