Virat Kohli stuck his tongue out describing how hot a day it’d been as he walked towards the media contingent below the dressing-rooms at Sabina Park on Thursday. Only minutes earlier, the Indian captain had seen his team home yet again in a run-chase with a century for the 18th time. It meant he know stood tall by himself, having gone past Sachin Tendulkar, as the batsman with the most tons in a successful run-chase.
But as he stood now, being miked up for the press conference, he was knackered and struggling to stand firmly on his feet. In addition to the heat, it’d also been a very humid day in Kingston, not like it seemed to have any effect on Kohli while he was in the middle. It’d been a flawless knock, an unbeaten 111 as his team pursued a target of 206, and had epitomized the range of his stroke-play. There was hardly a shot he didn’t play be it the on-drive, the cover-drive, the inside-out drive, the flick or even the hook. Kohli had been dismissed by the short ball on a couple of occasions previously in the series, both to Jason Holder, for cheap scores.
But here he climbed on them and punished them for boundaries. In his early days, Kohli would always celebrate a batting milestone with a display of brazen anger. His celebrations of course have mellowed down considerably with age and time, but on Thursday he rolled back the clock somewhat, punching the air and screaming “come on”, despite this being a facile game against a rather pedestrian bowling attack on a flat Sabina pitch. Kohli though would later reveal the reasons behind the throwback Thursday reaction after flicking a Kesrick Williams in trademark fashion towards the mid-wicket fence.
“I don’t like to get out in similar fashion more often. The reason you succeed at international cricket is that you have to stretch the gap between your mistakes and I think a couple of mistakes from me, getting out in the same manner is something that I don’t really like. So it was more of being a little strict on myself and getting the team across the line, which I knew the victory was inevitable when I got the hundred and it was all about the satisfaction of actually planning the innings out and executing it well and that always feels nice and something that I like to be hard on myself,” he said.
Asked whether the preparation to overcome a scenario like this was mainly through extra time in the nets or mental, Kohli said the planning started with sitting down in the room and thinking positively about the shots a batsman wants to play.
“Then you take the route of leaving the ball on one particular shot. But if you get into a clear mind-set back again and give yourself targets – after reaching 30 or 40, I’m going to start pulling the ball or I’m going to start taking on the short ball and targets become easier,” he said.
When you have as many centuries as Kohli, it can’t be easy to rate them. But would Thursday’s knock rank higher up since he not only overcame getting out in the same fashion previously but also ended up mastering the shot that got him into trouble among many other attractive ones?
“I would say the last one (against England) was still more special because the total was more massive and we were 63 for 4. Maybe the 49 in Bangladesh against Pakistan (facing Mohammad Amir in the Asia Cup T20 2016) was the best I’ve played in the last couple of years. It was only 49, it wasn’t even 50, so I think the quality of the knock, you can think of it only later,” he said.