Virat Kohli’s Long-Awaited Century Bodes Well for India Ahead of WTC Final

Before the Border Gavaskar Trophy got underway, the Virat Kohli question was on every lip. Even after his outings in the limited-overs format, the lack of runs in Tests was still considered the real deal.

The barren patch got longer with the away series against Bangladesh and the home series vs Australia presented Kohli an opportunity to find the missing piece to his own puzzle. That of a century in T20I, a stellar T20 World cup and then the consistency in ODIs.

From the practice sessions, there was no dearth of intent from India’s prolific right-hander. He would take guard well before his teammates had finished warming up and didn’t vacate the nets before the entire training gear was soaked in sweat.

There were attempts to simulate match situations by creating the extra rough on practice surfaces, facing bowlers who create angles similar to the Australian attack, continue showing the hunger to succeed and hope the hours in the nets translate into runs in the middle.

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If Nagpur would have woken him up, he gave a stern reminder of his abilities during the masterful 44 in the Delhi Test. The energy seemed infectious after that game and he was at it ahead of the Indore Test.

Sublime footwork, big hits against spin and a solid defence – all was on display over the two days he trained on the practice wickets but Indore came ‘out of syllabus’ for most batters. A minefield was rolled out and Kohli, like most, couldn’t get the big digits. If he was trapped while defending off the front foot in the first innings, where he did look solid, in the second it was the dangerous attempt to pull Matthew Kuhnemann on a surface where balls were scooting low.

Three games without a big score but Kohli was getting there. He was looking very good in patches and the slightly open stance allowed him to smother the off-spinners towards the leg-side. And he clearly mastered that shot in this series and enjoyed a lot of control and success with it. Ahmedabad rolled out a very true and batting-friendly surface and the way Australia batted in the first innings, there were runs in store for the Indian batters too.

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Shubman Gill scored, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara got starts but the next name on the scoresheet was the one everyone was interested in.

The 1205-day wait ended, the helmet finally came off and Kohli got the “600kg gorilla” off his back. His return to form was complete with authority and a daddy hundred. He would go on to say that there’s nothing to “prove someone wrong” but this was one such moment where one wouldn’t mind being proven wrong.

“I am not in a space now where I will go out and prove someone wrong. I also need to justify why I am there on the field,” Virat Kohli said in an interaction with the host broadcaster after getting the Player of the Match award for his gritty 186.

Kohli would add that the expectations he has from himself matter the most to him but runs instil a lot of confidence and inject a lot of positive energy in the change room. The former India captain was disappointed to not bat long in the previous fixtures and had a “relief” of sorts to play the way he did.

“To be honest, the expectations I have from myself as a player is more to important to me. I felt I was batting well from the first innings at Nagpur. We focussed on batting for long. I did that to an extent but not to the capability that I have done in the past…. I was a little disappointed for that. Relief from the point of view that I could play the way I wanted to play,” Kohli said.

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From a personal point of view, it’s good for Kohli that he is back among the runs in all three formats after not reaching the magic figure for quite some time. But more than Kohli, this knock would do a world of good to the dressing room and lend a lot of confidence to the top order which has struggled in the ongoing Test cycle.

Barring some crucial hands, the consistency at the top has been missing and Kohli finding his mojo back is the only thing India would have wanted ahead of the WTC Final in June.

Was there a relief in the Indian camp after the much-awaited ton? Rohit downplayed the “relief” bit but was effusive in his praise for his former captain and was pleased with the manner in which the right-hander applied himself on the Day 3 and Day 4 wickets.

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“Look, he played more than 100 Tests, got so many 100s, for a player like him, its few innings here and there. We saw in white ball cricket, we saw in Asia cup he scored that 100 and never looked back. I hope it will be same with red ball as well. It’s about going out there and applying yourself and doing the same things, he did pretty well and he did his own things rather than worrying about the scoreboard and he just batted the way he bats usually and that’s what got him success and to bat out so many balls is not easy on day 3 and 4 and some balls taking sharp turns and some balls having uneven bounce, that’s typical Indian wicket, he batted, he got big score and he put us in a situation where we were,” said Rohit during the post-series presser.

In the context of this match and series, Kohli’s runs mattered. Mattered a lot. But his return to form in whites ticks a very important box before Rohit Sharma & Co gear up for the title clash, against the same opposition, in England. No team would want to run into an in-form Kohli and Australia certainly know a thing or two about that proposition.

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