When he toured the country back in 2011-12, he was the soft target. Understandably so. A young kid off the blocks touring in hostile conditions for the first time. They sledged him, the crowd supported them. He responded with a middle finger, a fighting fifty and splendid ton.
India returned home with a 0-4 result, but discovered a fighting character in Virat Kohli. There were rough edges to deal with, but the package looked ready to take any opposition, in any conditions, on.
Post the tour, Kohli announced himself on the big stage. Consistent hundreds, match-winning chases and a reputation of his own. A reputation which got a hit in his disastrous tour of England, but recovered just in time for the all important tour Down Under.
The early challenge
While Kohli led the team in the past, the challenge of leading the pack in a Test match is a different ball game altogether. In absence of regular skipper MS Dhoni, Kohli proved his credentials of a Test skipper.
The decisions on the field did come under scrutiny but the bat covered for most of them. Hundreds in each of the innings, including the one which almost pulled off a historic chase, set the tone for the tour. The next match wasn’t quite encouraging but the intent was clear. He was ready to take them on.
During the Adelaide Test, he was seen as the peace-keeper when Varun Aaron, David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan engaged in a verbal spat. The act surprised a few but he was back to usual self when he exchanged some pleasantries with Steve Smith.
This Indian sledging unit, led by Kohli, was up for a fight. They were ready to deal with Australia the Aussies way. Some of the attacks backfired as many believed that it woke up ‘sleeping bear’ Mitchell Johnson, but Kohli put him back to sleep after the show at the ‘G.
Kohli vs Johnson
Johnson rattled Kohli with a fierce bouncer early in the series. There was concern then, but it was different at MCG on Sunday. Bouncers were backed by a glare of the eye, and it was Game On! Kohli vs Johnson was developing into an interesting battle before Kohli made it a one-sided affair.
A straight push to Johnson evoked a typical fast bowler reaction. The quick threw the ball straight at Kohli to topple him off his feet. The incident was followed by another exchange and it shook Kohli’s concentration, albeit briefly.
The Indian vice-captain reached three-figure mark, punched in the air, acknowledged the crowd and took Johnson on. He just creamed the most intimidating bowler in the opposition with utmost ease and grace. Anything short was pulled, full was driven and worth respect was left alone.
The Aussie quick went over 4.5 every over most of the day and was wicketless before Kohli edged one of his fuller deliveries to Brad Haddin behind the stumps.
Last laugh? It will be interesting to ask this question to Johnson and Australia, who were found wanting for most of the day’s play. Why? They got a dose of their own medicine, the Kohli way!