Virat Kohli, the Test captain and the corner-stone of Indian cricket at the moment, turned 28 on November 5 and it is almost unfathomable how much he’s achieved and done for the country at a young-ish age. Kevin Pietersen put it very recently that its almost unfair to compare Kohli with Joe Root – another fantastic cricketer – given how easy the Indian batsman makes things look on the field – be it with his bat or with his captaincy.
“He plays so aggressively – sometimes it’s like – are you serious? The way he makes big runs for his team so often is just remarkable,” said Pietersen to ‘The Cricketer’ magazine.
It has been an incredible 2016 for Kohli with 560 runs in Tests in just 7 matches (10 innings) with a highest score of 211 against New Zealand in the recently concluded series.However
However, most of the year has been spent playing limited over matches be it for India in ODIs and T20s or in the Indian Premier League for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
This year’s scored 739 runs from 10 innings in ODIs at an average of 92.37 and 641 runs in 13 innings at an average of 106.83. In the IPL, he scored 973 runs from 16 matches including four centuries for an average of 81.08.
But beyond all these numbers, five knocks have stood out for him in 2016:
82 off 51 against Australia in Mohali
For someone who has played numerous sensational innings, by his own account, this one was ’emotional’ and ‘best innings in the format’. The knock highlighted his level headedness despite the pressure of the situation, of the ask, and his improvement as a batsman with time.
India needed to beat Australia to seal a spot in the World T20 semi-final and with their backs against the wall, the MS Dhoni-led unit were able to clinch victory with a lot of help from Virat. Tottering at 49/3 and chasing 161, new batsman in Yuvraj Singh hurt himself on the second delivery and things looked tricky for India.
But first Yuvraj and Kohli steadied the ship before Dhoni made his way to the middle and joined in. But the credit for the successful chase goes to Kohli. Needing 39 from 18 balls at one stage, Kohli produced the magic in the closing stages and without playing any rash shots. He produced the goods with eight boundaries in the last five overs to take India home.
154 off 134 balls against New Zealand in Mohali
There’s something about Mohali, chases and Kohli. Prior to Virat, India were notorious for being terrible chasers. The team would self-destruct with target in sight and play unnecessary rash shots. That changed with the advent of Kohli.
There had already been multiple instances of that but it was once again reiterated at Mohali in the recently concluded ODI series against New Zealand which India won 3-2.
But in the third ODI, Kohli scored his 26th ton to take India over the finishing line when chasing 285. The hosts took a comfortable seven wicket win and reached the target with ten balls to spare. Kohli was ably supported by MS Dhoni at the other end with 80 from 91 balls. Their combination work produced 151 runs and took the game away from the Kiwis.
106 off 92 balls against Australia in Canberra
Not all Kohli tons and chases result in a win though. That has been one of the question marks over this Indian side – what if Virat Kohli doesn’t deliver? But in Canberra back in January, the dashing batsman scored 106 from 92 balls and there was a ton by Shikhar too (126 from 113 balls) but that wasn’t enough as the rest of the lot collapsed like a pack of cards with nine wickets falling in just 46 runs.
But it shouldn’t take away the fact that Kohli played a spectacular knock and once again justified his tag of India’s best ever chaser without losing sweat and almost Australian-like in his approach and manner.
And as agonising as it could be, it was Kohli’s poor shot – spooning a catch to Steve Smith at mid-off – that opened the can of worms.
211 against New Zealand in Indore
Virat Kohli scored his second double ton in Tests and first for an Indian captain when he piled on the runs with Ajinkya Rahane. Praise poured in from all corners for the skipper with his former coach Raj Kumar Sharma commending him for the way the innings was constructed. “Unlike his aggressive style, he moulded the game & built this inning beautifully,” said Sharma, “He is proving himself to be a good Test cricketer. He is focused, determined & always keeps team before himself.”
To justify his prowess with the bat, Kohli had scored 200 against the West Indies in Antigua in July to become the first Indian since Sachin Tendulkar in 2010 to score two double tons in the same calendar year.
100 off 63 balls against Gujarat Lions in Rajkot
Prior to April 24, 2016, Virat Kohli had 42 half centuries to his name in the shortest format of the game from 192 matches. But no hundreds. And that changed in Rajkot in the Indian Premier League when the Royal Challengers Bangalore faced the new outfit Gujarat Lions.
Before the hundred too, Kohli had been flirting with the milestone reaching as much as 89 unbeaten but he eventually came good and added the 11 more to add a ‘1’ next to the 100’s column in his stats box.
His top score before this in a T20 contest had been 99 against the Delhi Daredevils in 2013 but the equation in Rajkot was much easier and simpler for Kohli to get his maiden T20 ton. In the IPL 2016, Kohli added three more tons to emerge as the highest run getter.