After 1205 days, Virat Kohli took the Helmet Off and Soaked it All in
Virat Kohli quickly unclips the helmet and gently raises it with the bat in his right hand. No exaggeration, no fist pumps in the air, no wide extension of the arms. Just a gentle raise to acknowledge the dressing room for a very brief moment. In a split second, the batting gear was on the ground, the gloves were removed as he reached out for his wedding ring, which he wears on a chain around his neck. The eyes were shut and sweat off the forehead trickled down to the eyebrows as he planted a firm kiss on the ring.
He had a weary smile that never left his lips even when the ring was neatly placed beneath the Indian jersey. The home dugout was up on their feet and the opposition camp in the middle, led by Nathan Lyon, generously applauded as the 34-year-old continued to soak it all in. Sunday wasn’t about the technicalities of batting, how he scored the runs, who he scored them against and where they stood in the context of the game. That single in the 139th over, which gave Kohli the 100th run of his innings was a moment the entire country had eagerly waited for 1205 days.
It meant a lot. Not only to the man who had done it 74 times in international cricket but also to the spectators who had braved the sun to see India’s favourite son. No one wanted to rest in the shade when the great man was just a single away from the three-figure mark. They rushed, converged to the metal railings guarding the ground and had the smartphones out to capture the footage for their potentially viral Instagram reels.
With Kohli, the expectations never end because of the high standards he has set for himself and the followers of the game. When the ton-drought ended with the 122* in the T20I against Afghanistan, expectations moved to ODIs. When he scored three in a little over a month, the focus moved to Tests. And the noise kept getting louder since the Bangladesh series and the ongoing home series vs Australia.
In every sense, the comeback is well and truly complete as the right-hander has put doubts to rest in T20Is, ODIs and Tests. All this in little over six months. Again, how he scored, and where he scored is not the talking point here. Kohli is.
A player who has carried the weight of billion hopes first as a player then as captain and now again as a player deserves this moment under the sun. The moment when he can afford a deep breath and a sigh of relief. He will go on to score more runs and tons in his already illustrious career but this would have meant the world to him.
The cool character
The celebration wasn’t the wild one but it certainly gives a sneak peek into the man he is now. He is no longer the West Delhi brat who has “Ben Stokes” (pun intended) on his lips, but a polished gentleman living in Mumbai and keeping a close check on the weight of his body and the food on his plate. The barren run without the ton did bring a different Kohli to the world.
Over the last few months, Kohli, the into-your-face character, has transformed into that cool figure who wouldn’t mind sharing a laugh or two with the opposition camp and uncharacteristically engages in long friendly conversations in the middle. Clearly found a buddy in Nathan Lyon in this series.
There are numerous clips, now transformed into catchy reels, of Kohli’s fiery days dominating Instagram timelines but off late the composed talk, the mature podcasts and the visits to seek divine blessings have outnumbered them.
On the eve of this ton, a sedate Kohli reel popped up during some late-night navigation and his words, at a BCCI awards function in 2017, made so much sense in the current scenario.
“I always wanted to be one of the top players in the world. For sure! So I understood what it would take me to maintain my form in all three formats, not just one format. Along my early days in my career, there have been people who have doubted the way I have gone about my game. Even now, there are doubters and haters all around,” Kohli said while speaking to former India cricketer Farokh Engineer at the event which also had former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi in attendance.
“One thing is for sure that I have always believed in myself. I have always believed in my heart that If I work hard 120% every day in my life, I am answerable to no one. And I think if I get an opportunity, I am going to win games for my country. And I try to do that every time I go out to bat,” the star batter added.
Seeing him bat over the last few months, there’s been no dearth of self-belief or the 120% work he had mentioned. The 34-year-old has been the first to hit the nets during the Border Gavaskar Trophy and has trained hard every day to get, as former India coach Ravi Shastri mentioned during commentary in a booming voice, “600kg gorilla off his back”.
Can visualise the 34-year-old taking the long staircase to the dressing room during the Tea interval and just sitting and reflecting on what he achieved after toiling hard under the sun for 1205 days. He wasn’t woefully out of form but just short on runs. Now that they have started to flow, Kohli would hope to maintain a steady stream and keep the slope slippery for the “600kg gorilla”.
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