There was a time during the 1990s when Sachin Tendulkar and Indias success in ODI cricket were synonymous,even if it didnt always mean that a century from the megastar ensured a victory for his team.
The first decade of the 21st century might have seen the burden on Tendulkar reduce a tad with India producing a number of talented and successful batsmen in the 50-over format. But none of them managed to make as big an impact on ODI cricket as Virat Kohli has over the last couple of years. Along the way,the Delhi right-hander has also set a striking trend,that of scoring centuries in matches that India won. Going into the visitors first encounter of the five-match series against Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club,Kohli had led the team to victory with 13 out of his 14 centuries.
On Wednesday,it became 14 out of 15. Kohli,just 24,became the youngest to reach the mark of 15 ODI tons by a distance. It was a knock of brazen arrogance doubled with eye-catching style and grace. It was an innings laden with boundaries either side of the wicket,all 13 of them armed with power and panache. The eventual result was only a formality,a comfortable six-wicket win for the world champions,even if Kohli couldnt remain at the crease till the very end,being caught in the deep for 115 off 108 balls. But with his stirring century,the young Indian skipper had not only enhanced his reputation further,hed also set the tone for the tour in blazing fashion.
The target wasnt massive. Despite the apparent inexperience in the middle-order,229 was never going to test the Indians. The openers had provided a promising beginning. By the time Shikhar Dhawan exited,he and Rohit Sharma had put on 57. The left-hander had once again started off in free-spirited fashion,stroking three sweetly-timed boundaries.
Then a short-pitched delivery from Kyle Jarvis had put him to rest as he top-edged an attempted hook. Rohit left soon after with Ambati Rayudu walking in to bat on international debut.
While Kohli kept the tempo going at one end,Rayudu never once looked out of place in his maiden outing in Indian colours. Nor did he seem overawed by the situation. Rayudu was into his element quickly after a patient start,and before long was matching his captain for attractive strokeplay.
If this tournament is all about grabbing chances,Rayudu was doing just that. And he was doing that with nonchalant ease and confidence.
Kohli,meanwhile,continued to put the Zimbabwean bowling to sword with seamless precision even as Prosper Utseya and Tendai Chatara tried to squeeze the Indians into committing mistakes. As they nudged closer to the target,the Indian captain cut loose and ensured that the visitors reached their summit at a canter with close to six overs to spare.
Kohli was equally in-charge when India were on the field,beginning from winning the toss and electing to field. His bowling changes were sharp and almost always decisive. At one point,he brought Shami Ahmed back despite Jaidev Unadkat having taken his maiden ODI wicket in his previous over. And the move worked immediately as the Bengal seamer knocked Malcolm Wallers stumps back.
The Indian seamers enjoyed the nippy conditions,maintaining a good length and keeping the Zimbabweans at bay. The hosts displayed a lot of fight with Sikandar Raza leading the charge at the top of the order. He shared a 72-run stand for the first wicket with Vusimuzi Sibanda and was eventually dismissed for 82. Amit Mishra then sent the Zimbabweans into a tizzy with his turn and variations,snaring three wickets,before Elton Chigumbura provided some late impetus with a brutal assault.